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Archive for the ‘All-Star Game’ Category

OK, OK, are you sitting down? How’s this — imagine you’re watching a game that’s gone to a shootout. The shootout is tied after three attempts. Do you want to see a fourth lame attempt at yet another forward shooting at the goalie? Or do you want to see… wait for it… a goalie race?! WE KNOW! Brendan Shanahan, ball’s in your court.

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Another All-Star Game has come and gone, and as much as the NHL would like us to believe that Ovie was the star of the show, and as much as Chara attempted to prove the league wrong, we believe the true winner of the weekend was Stinger. Katebits brought some fabulous pictures of him to our attention, and the Versus feed showed footage of him cheering rinkside at least five times. It got us thinking back to the lock-out, when (along with Morgan, Boomer, and our friend Paul) we wrote a fake season to make up for the one we lost. One of Schnookie’s assigned match-ups included the Blue Jackets, and halfway through a hockeyless year, it was tough to find inspiration; she turned to the first logical place — the mascot’s bio on the Blue Jacket’s website. The following is the content from the bio (circa 2005) along with Schnookie’s commentary (in italics). It’s as timely now as it was then. (Also, the only updating done to the bio for 2009 is that “Marc Denis” is replaced with “Pascal Leclaire”. We’re pretty sure Mason checks it out before every game, waiting to see his name in the bright lights of Stinger’s bio.)

Player Stats

Name: Stinger

Position: Mascot

Shoots: Right

Height: 6’9″ (from the bottom of his feet to the tip of his antennae)

Weight: Don’t ask

Birthdate: 7/4/1999 [My God. I feel so old.]

Hometown: Columbus, OH

Favorites

Foods: Shark Flambe, Thunderburg Soup [Who doesn’t love Thunderburg soup? Now, Thunderbug soup, on the other hand, is much more of an acquired taste.], Predator Purée and Broiled Duck

Drink: Bug Juice

Book: Any books from the “Brady Brady” series by Mary Shaw

Movie: “A Bug’s Life”

Car: Blue Jackets FANBONI [Henceforth my Prius shall be known as a FANBONI. That is not a word that gets enough everyday use.]

Hobbies: Buzzing around the interNET, Brushing his teeth [This almost doesn’t warrant a comment. I just wanted to make sure you noticed Stinger’s hobby is BRUSHING HIS TEETH. Do kids actually fall for this?], Reading [Which is not as favorite a hobby as brushing his teeth…] and Visiting boys and girls at schools and hospitals.

Player: Marc Denis (#30) — because he’s as quick as a bee and plays like a butterfly [and he’s the only Blue Jacket anyone has ever heard of]! It doesn’t hurt that Stinger was showcased on Marc’s helmet for the first three seasons. [Maybe Marc Denis could fill up some of that spare time he’s so notorious for by brushing his teeth more often.]

Career Notes

If Big Bird and Bart Simpson collided in the rink, the resulting character might just be Stinger. [O-kaaaaay…] Kids will love his hug-ability. [Shouldn’t that read: “BUG-ability?”] Adults will take to his irrepressible irreverence. Stinger has something for everyone!

While Stinger is definitely mischievous, we can’t lose sight that his antics are always focused on the opponent’s mascot. [Harvey the Hound, I’m looking at you. And Thunderbutt. But good old T.B.’s antics tend to be inwardly focused, bordering on scary self-hate…] While he certainly interacts in a fun, positive way with home team supporters, the other teams’ mascots and fans are always the recipients of his impish charm. [Is that what the kids are calling it these days?]

Just take a look at him. Slender and fast as can be, Stinger projects a fun and engaging image-almost a Jim Carey like quality. [Oh my God!! A Jim Carey sighting! Someone call the Capitals – I’m sure they’d love to have him back.] And what Stinger lacks in stature, he makes up for in attitude-and that attitude just screams “Rock Star.” [Uh huh. That’s exactly what I was thinking. I think it’s the brushing his teeth that gives him that edge.] He’s the center of attention wherever he goes!

He may taunt and tease the opponent, but he’s a regular do-gooder when it comes to his hometown, whether he’s supporting Children’s Hospital or rallying behind youth hockey.

In his case, being a bug has its advantages. Through his antics, Stinger buzzes, flies and stings, just like his real-life counterparts. Fans will see him as friendly and michevious. [Sic. I’m hoping kids will be inspired by Stinger’s tooth-brushing ways and overlook his propensity not to spell-check documents he is posting on an NHL team’s official website. His mouth may be hygienic, but his professionalism is sorely lacking. Also, I’m really drawing a blank trying to think of a real-life bug I think of as “friendly” and “mischievous” that isn’t a lightning bug (already taken, her mate already served up in a soup in Stinger’s “Favorites” section) or a lady bug (kind of girly for a hockey team, even one based in Columbus).] Opponents will fear his “sting.”

And while Stinger is a tough guy, he’s also an underdog. [Umm… How? Is this an admission that he sucks, even by modern-day mascot standards?] This adds another aspect to his likable nature. It’s through his “tough but tender” persona that Stinger is sure to succeed in winning over fans.

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The 2009 NHL Superskills was surprisingly fun (thanks to Chara, not Ovechkin, of course), so we have high hopes for the All Star game proper to not suck 100%. Join us in an open thread as we take in the sights and sounds of the mid-season classic on ice.

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Inspired by Patty (in Dallas)’s kind words for the All-Star Game we now present to you our reasons why we aren’t joining the ranks of whiners and complainers trying to kill the midseason classic buzz.

1. The Superskills and All-Star Game bring out the very best in mic’ed up players. Between Marty Turco, Manny Legace, and Rick DiPietro, we’ve been treated to truly wonderful, off-the-cuff commentary in a relaxed hockey environment.

2. The consistently hideous uniforms. There has never been a cool all-star uniform in any sport, and that’s something many people would see fit to complain about. But you know what? We love the equalizing effect the ugly unis have. Every All Star team has its brightest lights and its “Her?”s, but the guys at both extremes, and all the ones in between, look evenly dopey in their dumb sweaters. There’s something incredibly charming about Joe Guy-Who-Got-Named-To-The-Roster-Because-He’s-The-Only-One-On-His-Team-Anyone’s-Even-Remotely-Heard-Of standing next to Bob First-Ballot-Hall-Of-Famer during player introductions, both of them knowing that in a few years someone will look at the tape of it and think, “Holy crap, but both those guys look ridiculous in those sweaters. Were those ever cool?”

3. The random mashup of players on the bench during games. It always seems remarkably silly and fun when they show shots of the benches during the ASG and we see Joe Guy-Who-Got-Named-To-The-Roster-Because-He’s-The-Only-One-On-His-Team-Anyone’s-Even-Remotely-Heard-Of sitting next to Bob First-Ballot-Hall-Of-Famer, interacting in an actual hockey-ish context.

4. Players we don’t normally pay attention to. We have massive tunnel vision when it comes to watching hockey these days; we can spend all day deeply immersed in hockey coverage and conversation online and never once venture beyond discussion of just the Devils. Sure, we watch other teams when the Devils aren’t on TV, but we’re often watching our designated secondary team instead. We’ll follow two or three teams closely during a season, and just ignore everyone else. So the All-Star events give us a chance to spend a couple of days being forced to watch a bunch of players we only know by name. And not just watch them in a regular “guys on the other team” way — no, we get to watch them chilling out, having fun, and often being surprisingly appealing. (See: Zdeno Chara last year.)

5. Players we do normally pay attention to doing well. When you spend the start of the season thinking the world needs to know that your favorite player is awesome, it’s nice to get some affirmation when said favorite player wins a plastic star for said awesomeness.

6. It doesn’t matter. We’re going to spend the next two and a half months watching stretch-run “every game is vitally important!” regular-season hockey, and then launch into the pressure cooker of the playoffs. It’s nice to have a weekend where we can sit back and relax.

7. The ridiculous player introductions. It’s not often we — fans who wax poetic about the lack of in-game entertainment at Continental Airlines Arena — are going to embrace laser lights and smoke machines. But when you pair them with a Mike Richards who looks like he’s going to die from embarrassment for how over-the-top the introduction is, we’re sold!

8. Cool superskills! Dude, the accuracy shooting is, like, the coolest thing we see all year. If they had accuracy shooting instead of penalty shots to decide OT winners, we probably wouldn’t hate the abolition of ties so much. What a wonderful world it would be if hockey games went to an accuracy shootout after five minutes of four-on-four OT…

9. Superskills down-time. Who doesn’t love seeing the guys sprawled out on the ice, waiting for their turn to do fastest skater or hardest shot? We get to see who forms cliques, who pays attention to the other events, and who pretends to have friends (Paul Kariya, we’re looking at you).

10. Foxy All-Star portraits. We’ve said it before and we’ll probably say it again — the portraits of the players in street clothes are a godsend. Every year we grouse that there aren’t enough hotties in the All-Star Game, then, come playoff time, we get a whole bunch of new playoff-only hockey boyfriends and Pookie decides to hone her mad reference-librarian skillz by researching them online. And lo and behold, every year, we discover our newfound dreamboat was at that year’s All-Star Game, we totally ignored him, but thanks to the portrait series, we have a treasure trove of pictures to use as our desktops on our computers at work. (And then, a few weeks later, when his team is eliminated from the playoffs and we go back to not liking him, then we’re all embarrassed to have that picture saved to our hard drives. But such is the circle of life when you’re cool like us.)

11. Mascot All-Star pictures. Every year finds a few photos interspersed in the Yahoo gallery of Foxy All-Star Portraits which show a giant mass of NHL mascots partaking of on-ice tomfoolery. Is it silly and stupid and should we be above it? Sure. Is it also totally awesome to see Youppi and Thunderbutt sharing the same ice surface? You bet it is!

12. It’s different. Look, we all know the All-Star Game isn’t going to be a classic game for the ages. It never has been and it never will be. But if you go in expecting just to see an assortment of great hockey players having fun in a low-key setting, interspersed with interviews and gushing sideline report stories about the participants, you’ll be duly entertained. It’s hockey, but it’s not. It’s a nice change of pace.

13. Saying, “There are the doors… There’s the seats…” as a guy starts racking up the points in the game.

14. Hoping this’ll be the year someone breaks the hardest shot record.

15. Watching the guys who think they can dog it on the puck-handling relay get burned by the guys who stay focused on the task at hand.

16. The passers on the accuracy shooting event. They’re a total afterthought, but without them, the sexiest superskill would be nothing. It’s fun to watch superstars like Sakic and Spezza sit back and enjoy a colleague getting to be in the spotlight, while they just go about their business of doing what they do best.

17. When offensive rushes break down during the game because the guys all try to be too fancy.

18. The plastic stars and uncool cars the MVPs win. We know they often give the cars away, but we love laughing at the end of every ASG about the unlucky recipient of the ugly car having to drive it for a year.

19. The red carpet. We owe Dallas big time for introducing the red carpet to the ASG festivities. It should be so wrong and so out of place but we can’t help but love getting the opportunity to fire up the TiVo of the pre-game stuff and then go all Go Fug Yourself on the NHL once a year.

20. “Mark Messier! FOUR FOR FOUR!” In Patty’s post she scoffs at sportswriters saying the ASG was better when they were kids because things are always better when you’re a kid. 1996 was the year we were essentially hockey kids, and the Superskills and ASG seemed impossibly awesome to us. And now we don’t want to be the people who whine that it was so much better then — we want to tune in every year hoping to see something that good again.

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Okay, we had been in the throes of a week-long rundown of things we liked about this past regular season before getting distracted by America’s Next Top Model, but we’ve got one very important point that we’d like to mention. In a season that was full of the dreadfully dull and the bitterly bleak, there was one high point, one beacon of joy, one neverending fount of wonder and delight. And that thing was the All-Star Game Throne portraits. Plenty of other people wrote about them at the time, but we don’t like to be “timely” or “on the ball”. We’d rather mention, months later, that a lifesaving buoy for us this year was this series. Sure, it would have been better if more, hotter players had been at the ASG , but we’re not here to complain. This minute. When viewed through our Playoff Goggles, there’s no reason to complain! Look at them all, jauntily perched atop the set piece from the local community theater’s production of “Hamlet! The Musical”, wielding the prop hockey stick like a scepter, or a magic wand, or like an object they’ve never seen before (Eric Staal , in particular, looks like he has no idea what a hockey stick does). Of course, the very best thing about the All Star Throne Portraits, the very best shining beacon of wonder and delight, is Vinny Lecavalier, Master of the Epiphvinny (TM Josh). Vinny’s throne portrait was such a powerful force of good, it gave us the greatest gift of this somewhat (okay, very) underwhelming Devils season — hope. Hope that someday Lou will go insane and will trade Elias, Gionta, Langenbrunner, and whatever else necessary to bring Vinny to New Jersey.

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So we’ve pretty much ignored all the post All-Star Weekend media coverage today, because it always makes us feel so very low to hear the bitching about how “meaningless” the game is, and to listen to the hockey media yammering on about what changes could be made to make the game “matter” more. You know what? It’s an All-Star Game. The point is that it doesn’t matter. In this interweb driven age of sports news, though, there always has to be something significant happening all the time, because information on its own isn’t currency anymore, so heaven forbid the media muckety-mucks should just be reporting for a day that something fun happened. We spend all season, from right out of the gate, hanging on every point, slavering over the standings, drawing the “Top Eight” lines across the conferences, and assigning grave importance to every game every day. Well, we just spent a weekend watching exhibition hockey that gave us a chance to relax for four days and forget about the clusterfuck that is the Atlantic Division standings. We spent a weekend watching players we normally dislike getting to show off (and win us over) by goofing around out of their loathed-team contexts. We spent a weekend just not spazzing about how frickin’ meaningful the NHL likes to try to make us believe it’s supposed to be all the time. We watched players in their suits, with their helmets off, laughing and relaxing on the ice, and it made us relax and laugh, too. And you know what? That’s pretty damn meaningful, too. No, we won’t remember the final score a year from now, and we won’t remember who was the MVP, but we will remember that it was fun. Since when did “fun” not matter?

That said, we can’t help but break All-Star Weekend into who won and who lost.

WINNER Us.
That is if we get a VERSUS VERSUS VERSUS magnetic playoff tracker board.
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WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! Can you feel the excitement? Can you feel the star power? Can you? Can you? Because it’s ALL-STAR TIME! Doc’s intro, singling out the biggest and brightest names, is hilariously short of actual big and bright names. It’s like he’s saying, “Come see the high-scoring Ovechkin, the dazzlingly talented Vinny Lecavalier, the, um, tall Zdeno Chara… and, um, the… uh… well, Rick Nash scored a really pretty goal a few weeks ago. Sigh.”

Eddie’s suit is SO BAD. Who told him a charcoal suit with pink pin stripes was a good idea? That person should be fired. Anyway, we cut to commercial before the suit can make our eyeballs turn to ash, and when we come back there’s some musical act on the ice. Doc says their name, and Schnookie asks, “Who?” Pookie: “The Hives? The Hibes? I don’t know.” We get a close-up of them, and Pookie shrieks, “They look like a band of Chris Prongers! They’re all wearing Philip Seymour Hoffman boarding school movie suits!” You know what makes us feel like old ladies? When we see whatever awful act the NHL ropes into performing at the All-Star Game. And we sit in front of our muted television in stunned silence, wondering if this is what the kids are listening to these days. Pookie ponders aloud, “I wonder if they wear those outfits all the time? And do their fans wear matching outfits to their concerts?” Note to the Hives’ stylists: we muted as soon as we saw the suits. If they’d not been wearing those suits, we might have given them a chance. Not a good sartorial choice, Hives. Very poorly played.

During the WC team introduction, Schnookie announces, “Ed Jovonovski looks like he is beaming into my living room from 1996.” He is just a constant blast from the past.

When the camera pans over Arnott, Pookie says, “Ugh. He doesn’t look like he’s wearing clothes under his clothes.” Pause. Schnookie: “And he’s really a guy who should wear clothes under his clothes.”
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