Archive for the ‘Hockey’ Category

Memories on Ice

Posted: April 29, 2014 in Hockey

It was just over seven months ago that I was walking into Olympic View Arena for one of the evaluation skates prior to the 2013-14 Greater Seattle Hockey League season.  I had only been skating in hockey gear for nine months and this was going to be the first time I had ever been on ice other than that of the public rink in Everett.  I had never felt adrenaline quite like what was going through me on that night.

A week-and-a-half later, I was getting the email from Dean Willard that I – along with my good friend Dave Sheehan – had been drafted into Night Owls Hockey.  Simply based on reading that initial contact I knew I was a lucky guy.  I’ve worked within top-notch organizations (Brownfield Promotions and the Silvertips) and knew that this was going to be an extremely well run, respectful, professionally approached situation I suddenly found myself in.  It was awesome enough knowing I was going to start playing hockey, but by the time I was done with that email I couldn’t wrap my mind around all of the excitement I immediately had.

It was a long wait for those few weeks until our first game rolled around on Monday night, October 7th.  I began the day in Spokane and finished it celebrating a 9-1 victory.  I will never forget being on the first defensive pairing; on the ice for the opening face-off and ending the shift with my first ever assist.  From that night on it would be one hell of a ride.

There were many ups and downs both personally and as a team for those first couple of months, but once we got back to it after the long holiday break we took off.  Winning isn’t the only thing in beer league hockey, but it certainly is awesome when it happens.  I could easily go back through and relive every game, but I will spare you and save that for a later time.

The season wound down with us finishing atop our division and carrying all kinds of momentum into the playoffs.  We started off beyond strongly in that opening game on the main ice in Everett and followed it up with a solid, heated win over our most hated rivals: the Rebels.  We knew then that we were into the championship, but had no idea who the opponent was going to be.  Of course, it would be our nemesis.

There is almost literally no way to describe what transpired over this past week.  We only had to win one game to take the title.  They had to beat us twice and accomplished what they had to in the first game when we came out flat and got straight-up beat.  We headed into the second game with everything on the line and staring down the reality of having our shortest, most depleted bench of the season.  Thankfully, Chris Landman and Ryan Reece-Beltrand were able to fight through their injuries and helped us salvage a nearly full bench.

Now, it’s easy to say the game that transpired was awesome since we ended up winning the championship.  But, seriously, that will probably be the most incredible game I am ever going to play in my life, and I intend to play for many years to come.  The pure guts and determination from everyone on the team led to majority of us playing our greatest games of the season if not our lives.  The energy used up, the last little bit of strength that everyone had left being exerted with guys diving all over the place to block passes and shots as we faced the extra attacker for the final two minutes pinned in our own zone.  There truly is no way to put it into words.

The post-game huddle as we mobbed around our goalie Mark Van Der Lee, the traditional championship team photo, the handshake line knowing we just bested our foes in the intense rivalry – those are great moments and memories, but getting the mugs in our hands was when the accomplishment really set in.  They are a physical, tangible piece to remind us from now until the end of our lives of what we have all accomplished.   They make everything taste better and there is absolutely no way you can take a drink from one without getting a smile on your face.

It has been a brilliant ride.  I can’t thank Jason Goscinski enough for being an awesome leader as our team’s Captain.  I learned a lot starting the season back on defense alongside Jesse Komenski.  It was an absolute thrill finally getting paired up on a line for the second half of the season with Dave and Katie Markeson.  We all got some pretty brutal songs stuck in our heads before games thanks to Derek Moore.  Overall, I’m beyond thankful for the lifelong memories I’ll carry with me out of this season of sharing the ice with Gideon Burt, Mike Morasch, Zach and Zane Vakerics, Steve Weiss, Eric Visser, and Thomas Sommers.  I also will never overlook those who played key roles by helping us out as part of the roster throughout the season including Rob Dillon, Tom Mollison, Vern Francissen, Dani Miller and Mark Green.

This experience ultimately culminated in the way we all hoped it would; the way we all busted our asses for.  I have found it is true that just because you wear the same sweater doesn’t make you a team.  You become one by playing for one another and laying everything on the line for the betterment of the team.  I didn’t play any sports growing up as I was saving myself for racing (and we can see how well that turned out for me).  On second thought, maybe it did work out.  As a result, I have never felt anything like this before and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I have never felt adrenaline quite like what’s going through me on this night.

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Wow, where to begin.  I guess I really let things slip being that I haven’t written in three months.  I always thought I’d have to die before that happened…again.  Seriously though, I don’t know how to get started so I guess I’ll just blow through some key points on my mind and see where things end up going.

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  • The biggest news on an overall scale is the return of the NHL for the 2013 season.  Yes, I said 2013 because I cannot stand anyone who still references it as 2012-13.  How can you include the ’12 when there was no existence of any play during that half of the season?  Anyway, as I had said all along I will not give a damn about how things play out because the season is one big, tainted joke.  That’s not to say that I won’t somewhat pay attention.  Out of all the games that have been played, I’ve watched parts of four and listened on radio to parts of three others.  One of those TV games and all three radio games have gone to shootouts but that’s a rant that deserves its own time and space.

Some of you probably are accusing me of being hypocritical  for even tuning in, but I genuinely don’t care.  Who has the best record in the league?  Couldn’t tell you.  Who has the worst? Again, couldn’t tell you.  Who is leading in goals scored or points?  You know my answer.  Where’s my NHL gear that I own?  Still in the closet where showing support for the owners belongs.  When this 48-game regular season comes to an end, I will pay slightly more attention.  My belief is that the top teams heading into the playoffs at the end of 48-games would be the same teams as if it were a full 82-game season.  Yes, seeding might be different and the bottom couple of teams might have changed, but as a whole it will still be the best teams playing for the Stanley Cup.

  • Earlier this month the Silvertips relieved second year Head Coach Mark Ferner and Assistant Coach Chris Hartsburg of their duties; General Manager Garry Davidson is carrying the “Interim Head Coach” title for the rest of the season.  I still find this a bit of a confusing move as the team was doing much better this season despite rebuilding than it was at the same point last year.  Since Davidson’s decision, you can argue that the team has been much less consistent.  Why not make the move before the season even began if you knew that the coach and GM weren’t on the same page?
  • My second-to-last posting was in regards to the idea NASCAR was floating around of holding a dirt race for their truck series.  Just a matter of days after I wrote that, the official announcement was made.  Last week in a press conference NASCAR’s front man Brian France referenced judgment and decision making errors that the organization has made in the past couple of decades.  Once the novelty of this idea wears off it will be brought up in that same light a few years down the road.
  • The IndyCar Series announced changes to their format for several races this upcoming season.  They involve combinations of various aspects including different qualifying systems, heat races, double-segmented races, standing starts and some other tweaks.  A key note is that most of these things only apply to road/street course races.  Unlike the NASCAR Truck thing, I have no problems with these format changes.  There’s one glaring reason: consistency.  All of these things will be utilized on several occasions; they won’t be a one-off anomaly that goes against everything the series has always stood for.  These different elements have been dabbled in over the past few seasons and they are things that all of the drivers are accustomed to from previous series and experience.
  • On a personal front, 2013 is starting off great from a music standpoint.  My top three favorite artists of Bon Jovi (What About Now), Goo Goo Dolls (Magnetic) and Michelle Branch (West Coast Time [a year-and-a-half delayed]) are all releasing new music throughout the first handful of months.  The Boys from Jersey have already put out the first single – “Because We Can” – though no release date on the album has been publicized.  As for Buffalo’s own, “Rebel Beat” has been released on the internet ahead of the album’s May 7th release, but we have to wait until February 12th to purchase the single.  In terms of Michelle’s next musical installment, the spring is all that has been mentioned.  However, back in late summer of 2011, “Loud Music” was the first single to hit the airwaves to promote the album that was victimized by hold-ups at the label level.

Bottom line is that ‘13 is going to be amazing and all of this new music at the start is perfect timing because it will give an incredible soundtrack to my life for it all.

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So, there you have it.  Three months of randomness condensed into a few bullet points of, well – randomness.  My prediction is that there will be even more randomness to randomly attempt putting into words for another random blog at a random time some point not too far down the line.  No, I didn’t plan all of that it just came out that way.  I guess you could say it was…everybody at once now…random.

 

— JRD

It has not been officially announced yet, but U.S. fans of Formula 1 racing will have to tune their televisions to a new network starting next season.  SPEED TV – part of the Fox family of networks – will no longer be this country’s supplier of the world’s top echelon of motorsport (after 17 years) as the F1 airing rights switch hands to NBC Sports.  The main factor at play in all of this is that Fox is choosing to rebrand SPEED as an all-sports type of network.  Yes, there is already Fox Sports Network but it is working at a much smaller level than what SPEED has been at for the past decade.

I for one am highly disappointed in this forthcoming change.  Not so much the reworking and ultimately the loss of SPEED, but more so for the change in F1 coverage.  The current on-air crew is spectacular: Bob Varsha – the broadcaster with decades of experience covering F1 and all racing ; David Hobbs – the ex-racer with an immense racing resume and full of incredible stories; Steve Matchett – the former F1 mechanic throughout the 90s who is an encyclopedia of technical knowledge.  Toss in long time on-site paddock reporter Peter Windsor (whose F1 credentials are endless) and his successor the past three seasons Will Buxton and you have arguably the best Formula 1 broadcasting team in the world.

I know it is very early on in this change and details from NBC will eventually emerge, but based on their racing coverage in the past and what is being left behind at SPEED, I do not foresee much of an appetite to give the same devotion toward watching the series.

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On Tuesday afternoon, the Everett Silvertips made a bit of a splash by trading second year forward Ryan Chynoweth to the Tri-City Americans in exchange for a conditional fifth round bantam draft pick.  It became well documented after the move that Ryan had made a request to be traded.  A large reason for that was due to a bit of a slow start to his season and getting bounced around at the bottom of the lines sheet by new faces.

I was really surprised when I saw the news as Ryan was definitely a long-term piece of the rebuilding process for the Tips.  Sure the first couple of weeks to the season weren’t anything eye opening from him but last season was a very solid, promising year.  It seemed that it would only be a matter of time before he hit his stride and began to be a steady contributor to the team.  Beyond that you can’t deny his pedigree and figure that, at some point, his bloodlines alone would give him that little bit of an extra boost.

Now don’t even get me started on junior hockey players requesting trades.  Unless it’s for a family situation back home I find it completely uncalled for and a huge mistake by the player.  However, that’s a path to kick some rocks down at a later time.  That was my first real assessment of the situation.  My second?  The chance to have a little bit of fun with it in terms of potential underlying factors.  Let’s see if the Silvertips and Kootenay ICE make a decent deal at some point this season.  Kootenay’s General Manager is Jeff Chynoweth – Ryan’s dad.  Jeff’s dad – Ed Chynoweth – is the founding father of the Western Hockey League and the Canadian Hockey League umbrella itself.  Needless to say, the name has some clout and when one of them talks people listen.  So, would it really be that far-fetched to wonder if Jeff offered possibilities of future business between the teams in exchange for the Tips granting his son his wish?  Or if that wasn’t discussed but the Tips choose to play that card if they ever do put in a call to Cranbrook?

How far off base – or, more appropriately, off the rink – am I with that?  Hell, I’m probably not even in the same building.  It’s just something fun to ponder and to keep in the back of your mind; more entertaining than anything else.  Which, with watching a rebuilding team on the ice, entertaining mental distractions could be a good thing to have at the ready.

 

The Natonal Hockey League and National Hockey League Player’s Association are scheduled to have talks both tomorrow and Thursday, but ultimately those talks aren’t expected to lead anywhere.  Gee, what else should we the fans expect?  The league’s regular season was slated to start on Thursday with four games.  Instead of being at the rink, however, everyone will have their focus on seemingly pointless meetings as the two sides talk about “secondary” issues and nothing that will have a profound impact on the creation of a new CBA.  Meanwhile, more players are heading overseas to play in Europe.  It doesn’t take a genius to see how those movements do not bode well for the hopes of the season being reinstated.  If a deal was close, every one of those players would be staring at the phone waiting for their agent to call and not tying up the line with their travel agent.

One bright spot of the lockout – using that term extremely loosely – is the added focus to the lower levels of the sport.  The American Hockey League will get tremendous exposure thanks to both the added media as well as NHLers heading down to play.  Some will go even further south in the development leagues as both Scott Gomez (New York Rangers; Tri-City Americans alum) and Nate Thompson (Tampa Bay Lightning; Prince George Cougars alum) will go home to Alaska to play in Anchorage for the Aces of the ECHL.  One side note to Gomez: last lockout he played for the Aces and fell victim to a cheap shot that resulted in broken ribs (and disciplinary action to the team’s PA announcer for comments made during a later game).  An NHL owner’s greatest fear which is ironic because you can point the finger at them for creating the scenario in the first place.

Meanwhile I have put all of my NHL apparel in the closet.  My Canucks license plate frame is in hiding.  Anyone know where I can buy some NHLPA apparel?  Screw the owners and let the players play.  The day the puck once again drops will be a great day for hockey fans but will pale in comparison to the day that Gary Bettman finally goes away.

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Now that the NHL has officially begun to cancel games they have made it so much easier to despise them.  I can’t say definitively that I won’t talk about the lockout from this point forward, but I will do my best to avoid it at all costs.  Instead, I too will focus my attention to the other leagues still playing with the Western Hockey League being my primary point of emphasis.  By far and away the best developmental league in the world, I realize just how incredibly lucky I am to get to enjoy it on a regular basis thanks to the Everett Silvertips.  Through the years I have been able to witness some great talents come through town both for the Tips as well as the visiting teams: Gilbert Brule, Brandon Dubinsky, Shea Weber, Milan Lucic, Peter Mueller, Carey Price, Leland Irving, Ryan Murray.  The list goes on and on.

It’s too early to say, but last Wednesday night we may have witnessed another name to pencil onto that list.  Tri-City Americans second year goaltender Eric Comrie put forth one of the best performances I have ever seen.   Every shot he was reading the whole way.  Every rebound he was in position to make a follow-up save.  If a shot was wide and he ended up waving at it he would watch it all the way to the boards.  My body hurt just watching some of the lunging, sprawling stops he was making.  The kid was standing on his head.   Oh, did I mention all of this was just during the pre-game warm-up.  Through the years I have learned that it’s tough to get a read on how a skater will perform that night based on the pre-game skate, but goalies give a little bit more of an accurate read and that night was the first time I’ve seen a net minder win a game for his team during warm-up.

Yes, it was just one date on a long schedule but I will stand up and applaud Eric Comrie for proving what every good parent and every good coach tries to instill in their youngsters: if you practice great, you will play great.   Don’t be surprised to be hearing and reading his name for a long time to come.

10th Season of the Silvertips

Posted: September 22, 2012 in Hockey

Tonight marks the beginning of the magical 10th season for the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League.  Looking back over the previous nine years it has been quite the ride with countless ups and nearly as many downs.  It feels like it was only yesterday that I was walking into that arena for the very first time to watch the team’s inaugural home opener.  Little did any of us know then what was in store.

I will openly admit that I was one of the skeptics when I first heard that Everett was building an arena for a hockey team.  Wait, what?  Seriously?  Who on earth thinks that Everett is going to be able to sustain a hockey team?  I knew I’d be into it for sure, but what about the rest of Snohomish County?  Definitely not your stereotypical hockey hotbed.  Oh well, it was going to be hockey in our back yard so might as well enjoy it while it was here – which I didn’t think would be for long.

Inside the barn that first night you could tell that a large portion of the crowd was made up of life long residents in the area who came out just to see what this new exciting chapter in the city’s history was all about.  There were definitely a lot of blank stares as people tried to sort out what it was they were witnessing.  On the other hand, there was a great contingent of us hockey fans who knew exactly what this was all about and were extremely appreciative of it.

As that first season wore on the team turned into not just a local phenomenon but somewhat of an international one as well.  The WHL had never before seen an expansion team put together the success that the Tips had and it all culminated with a trip to the league final.  That post-season run is easily the most valued memory that I have from a fan standpoint with the highlight being the conference championship series against the Kelowna Rockets.  To this day if you bring that series up with anyone who was following the team back then both of you will get shivers down your spine and the adrenaline starts pumping.

Through the years since, the organization has made itself arguably the community’s most cherished possession.  There were the highs of winning three division titles and being the league’s best team during the regular season.  There were the lows of playoff upsets and of the loss of members of the Tips family in Dave Piland, Jordan Mistelbacher and Jim Smith.  There were too many events in between to even begin thinking about mentioning them.

All I know for sure is that it has been a great ride.  My personal pinnacle of which was having the absolute honor of working for the team from February of 2007 to February of 2008; plus a few “one-off” games in the couple of seasons after.   I can truthfully say that every single night – whether in the press box for home games or working road games in my bedroom via radio/internet video feed – I would have a couple of different moments where I got a huge smile and was very grateful that I was actually working in the Western Hockey League for one of the league’s premiere organizations.  I will forever cherish those memories.

Now, here we stand tonight on the brink of a once in a life time opportunity.  It’s not every night that you get to share in such a milestone event with your favorite sports team.  This evening will be full of excitement, reflection and hope – lots and lots of hope for the next ten years.  We have absolutely no idea what to expect between now and then.  Nine years ago, we didn’t know either.

I think it turned out pretty well.

OHL + NHL = Get it together…now!

Posted: September 19, 2012 in Hockey

I am not in any way a fan of David Branch.  The Ontario Hockey League commissioner is, in my opinion, the worst person of authority in major junior hockey.  He really makes you sit back and wonder how much of a hockey fan he really is.

It has been going on for a while now but it really picked up last season when Branch was placed on record in the New York Times talking about how the desire is out there to minimize fighting in hockey.  Minimizing being a best case scenario as many people want to see it completely outlawed.  Why?  Supposedly to increase player safety.  Again, you have to wonder if folks with this mindset are truly hockey fans.  My guess is no.  I don’t care if they’re former players.  I don’t care if they’re highly regarded front office staffers.  I don’t care if they’ve been around the game for 45-years and have seen the numerous different eras that have come and gone.  Because if they were any of those three they should even more so understand and appreciate the art of fighting in hockey.

Starting this season, Branch is going to impose a two game suspension to players going beyond a total of ten fights (plus an additional $1,000 fine to the player’s team).  Should a player get tagged with an instigating penalty after reaching his ten fights then the suspension doubles to four games.  The most absurd rule of all encompasses the types of fights that carry an automatic two game suspension (regardless of the player’s overall fight count for the season): instigating in the final five minutes of a game, fighting at the opening of a period, “staged” fights at any time and whenever the player purposely takes off his helmet before a fight.

Real quickly I can rebut these in one paragraph.  Let’s start with instigating in the final five minutes and here’s the scenario: your team is up 3-0 having thoroughly outplayed your opponent.  Their second line center takes a non-penalized checking-from-behind run at your fourth liner who’s out there trying to earn playing time and as the enforcer you can’t do a damn thing?  How is that protecting player safety?  Or what about not being able to “stage” fights?  In all honesty that’s the absolute safest way for a fight to occur.  Both participants are willing, therefore, they know it’s coming.  Staged fights usually happen at a face-off or when both players are fresh into shifts so both have maximum energy and can withstand the rigors of the tilt.  But above all, it allows them to take care of the situation right then and there.  It doesn’t allow for heated emotions to fester and boil over; eventually that leads to a third member getting dragged into the mess and a mid-play fight erupting while there’s already enough chaos happening on the ice.

Okay, yes player safety is extremely crucial and all steps for possible improvement need to be investigated.  However, it is still hockey.  It is still an extremely fast, heavy contact game played on ice.  Injuries that threaten careers will forever be a part of it with some of those coming accidentally and some of them coming as result of players not watching out for one another.  So let the game police itself.  We don’t need men in suits who played for a little while in bantam (if even that) telling the guys on the ice when they can and can’t standup for themselves or their team mates.

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Here I go with another quick rant.  I know I spoke of the NHL lockout in my last post, but since then it has become a finalized situation and just today all pre-season games through September 30 have been canceled.  There was only one major meeting last week and barely anything scheduled for this week.  How much of a bigger slap to the face of the fans could the NHL dish out?  Three lockouts in the last 18 years with the most recent of which still talked about on a regular basis as having been the darkest moment in the league’s history.  My only question is where is the commissioner Gary Bettman in this whole deal?

Oh, that’s right – he’s 100% on the side of the owners and doing their negotiations for them.  How on earth does that make any sense?  As I’ve said before: I’m just a simple man and don’t fully understand how these situations work.  But what I do fully understand is that I’m a fan of hockey and there needs to be a new Collective Bargaining Agreement made immediately and the one man who should be most concerned about it is the one leading the charge to lockout the players.  Gary Bettman is the COMMISSIONER – it’s his sole duty to make sure his league operates as smoothly as possible.  Well, guess what.  It’s not operating at all right now.  There is no reason why Bettman should be taking any sides.  He needs to sit the owners and the players association down in a room, lock the door, set a timer for 24-hours and tell them to figure their crap out by the time it dings.

It was no secret that the CBA was going to expire this fall.  Why no rigorous stretch of meetings ever occurred is an absolute travesty.  Everyone knew this time was coming and no efforts were visibly made (from a fan’s perspective) to protect the game.  What a joke.  The owners should be disgusted with themselves.  Gary Bettman should no longer have a job.  Give us back our game.

Just drop the puck!

First and foremost, Alex Zanardi won Paracycling gold today at the Paralympics in London.  His horrendous Champ Car crash in Europe in 2001 was a fatal accident in all respects.  The ferociousness of the impact itself, the loss of blood, the injuries – if you’ve ever read or heard the information from the doctors who were involved in the situation there is no reason to believe that he stood a chance of survival.  But, survive he did.  Not only did he recuperate to a normal life without his legs, he went on to compete again in racing thanks to his prosthetics.  As if that weren’t accomplishment enough he proceeded to win races again, win another championship and now a gold medal.

He has already written one book and is now almost assuredly necessitated into writing a second.  Alex is my number one example of inspiration and a never give up attitude.  If anyone in the world is in a state of their lives where they need a role model to look up to, Alex Zanardi is their guy.

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The Grand-Am series and the American Le Mans Series announced today that they are merging beginning with the 2014 racing season.  This is a great step forward for sports car racing in this country but I am very cautiously optimistic.  In my opinion, sports cars are the purest form of four wheeled racing that there is.  From distinctive manufacturers to the challenge of racing through all hours of the day and night no matter what the weather conditions are.  That is why I lean toward ALMS more than Grand-Am.  The latter is essentially owned by NASCAR and it shows: cars look identical with the only difference being engine manufacturers, races are on (slightly) smaller tracks, rules packages created to cause close racing.  Where ALMS on the other hand displays very distinguishable differences amongst the manufacturers, races tend to be a bit longer and are done on tracks that really test man and machine.

With that said, the way in which this merger transpires is extremely crucial for the success of the series.  While sports car racing is my personal favorite, it’s not suited for the typical American race fan.  That’s why NASCAR is so popular in this country: it’s straightforward, designed (and in my opinion sometimes “scripted” – for lack of a better word) for close racing and easy to follow.  Sports car racing has been solid but not overly successful in this nation with two separate series.  However, this stretches beyond our domestic boarders and has international concerns.  ALMS is named after the world’s most famous race: 24 Hours of Le Mans.  Depending on what rules packages the new series incorporates, that could jeopardize American based teams getting invites to compete every June in France.  That would be a massive heartbreaker and killer for the potential growth of the series.  I certainly don’t think any of the powers-at-be are stupid enough to ignore that aspect of the merger, but I have my concerns.  After all, it basically includes NASCAR involvement and I don’t trust that organization one bit.

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The first game of the NFL’s regular season was played tonight.  What’s my favorite part about football season?  The fact that it means it’s damn near hockey season.  The purest, most beautiful team sport in the world is at risk of losing yet another season from its premiere league.  The NHL needs to get its crap together.  The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires next Saturday and for all intents and purposes from a fan’s perspective absolutely zero progress has been made.  Now I know I’m just a simple man who doesn’t fully know the true extent of the negotiations, but I do know the whole situation stinks.  I know there should be more efforts being made to get meetings put into session.  I know Gary Bettman is a horrible commissioner.  Seriously, in my opinion he’s brutal.  Shouldn’t his primary concern be not having a repeat of the last lockout in which an entire season was lost?  What has he done to this point to prevent that?  Again, I know I’m just a dullard when it comes to the current CBA situation but from my perspective he hasn’t done nearly enough to get the two sides together to hash out an agreement.  He is the commissioner.  It’s not his job to pick a side; it’s his job to make sure a new CBA gets done.  Period.

I absolutely love hockey.  It’s my saving grace.  When I’m having a bad day or needing a “pick-me-up” in life and Bon Jovi’s music isn’t available, I know that a hockey game will do the trick.  With that said, I will lose an incredible amount of respect for the NHL if a lockout happens yet again.  I will in no way look at the league the same and won’t hesitate to distance myself from it.  Those who know me need look no further than my life growing up in racing to understand that I mean it when I stand up for what I believe in and denounce the people, places and things that I don’t believe in.  If this lockout happens, I will lose a lot of belief in the NHL.  Almost as much as I’ve lost in Bettman.  Almost, but not quite.

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I’ve never really gotten too personal on these pages before.  Yes, everything I type is a personal chunk of me but I’ve always tried to keep it professional.  However, in my personal life next week something very incredible is going to happen.  My cousin and absolute best friend is getting married and I get to be her Man of Honor.  Yes, that’s right.  I’m standing on her side of the wedding party.  I cannot stress enough how incredibly honored and insanely proud I am to have such a role.  To even be told that you get to be in a wedding is quite the experience that not everyone gets to enjoy, but to be a Man of Honor?  How many men get to say that?  Yes, I have faced a lot of laughs and weird looks when I’ve told people my title, but I just beam a huge smile back and tell them to screw off.  It will for sure be an absolute highlight of my life – not just for the obvious selfish reason, but because I get to be standing up there with my best friend to watch her enter into the new chapter of her life with her soul mate and true love.  I can’t wait!