Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Bus rides and Breaks

The first leg of the UEFA Champions League semi finals begin this afternoon – but not without a big of volcanic controversy.

Thousands of flights have been cancelled in the past week because of that thick cloud of ash hovering above Europe, including one that FC Barcelona was preparing to take to Italy ahead of their clash with Inter Milan. With air travel out of the picture, the Barca boys were forced to travel by bus – a 14-hour, 1,000-kilometer journey.

The team’s technical director is now crying foul – Txiki Begiristain says UEFA isn’t doing enough to help clubs that were affected by the ash situation.

ESPN reports Begiristain is upset that the European governing body “showed no flexibility” on the subject of postponing the game, saying (and this is one of the sweetest quotes you may ever read) “making a team travel by coach belongs to a bygone age.”

Begiristain says the home team gets the advantage out of this mess, but adds his players won’t be using the long trip as an excuse.

Either way, I’m sure it was a nice bus.

On the other side of the semi final picture sits an angry coach and another type of advantage being had, though this one has nothing to do with volcanic ash.

Bayern Munich coach Louis van Gaal is asking UEFA to let his club play its first leg against Lyon this weekend instead of this Wednesday, because the French Football Association gave Lyon a domestic postponement for this weekend.

Lyon was supposed to play Monaco next Saturday, but the game has been moved to May 12th.

The reason? To give them more time to prepare for the second leg next Tuesday.

An outraged van Gaal wants UEFA to force the French FA to reverse the decision, saying “UEFA has got to keep an eye on and regulate things like this.”

“If UEFA organize competitions, then they have got to ensure that the conditions are the same and that is no longer the case.”

Bayern will play Borussia Monchengladbach three days before their trip to France and that’s a date that definitely won’t be moved. ESPN says the Bundesliga is very strict when it comes to scheduling, even when it comes to the semi final of the Champions League.

Does van Gaal have a valid argument? Seems like it to me – that’s an unfair advantage to Lyon and UEFA shouldn’t be letting its member organizations play around the rules like that. The NY Times reported on Friday though that Bayern had decided not to protest the French FA’s decision. Still, that doesn’t stop UEFA from stepping in.

As for Barca, it sucks that they had to ride the bus, but I guess that’s life. At least none of them got food poisoning before the trip!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Open Tryouts

Ever wanted to be a pro athlete, but not sure if you should quit your day job? Well if you can swing a bat or kick a ball, you might be in luck!

The Golden Baseball League's Edmonton Capitals and the North American Soccer League's FC Edmonton are both holding open tryouts for regular people to try and make their mark on the local sports scene. It's the second straight year the Caps have extended the invitation to the public, while the newly formed FC Edmonton is getting ready for a season of exhibition games before they officially enter the NASL next season.

"We take this very seriously," said Capitals manager Brent Bowers in a release. "We'll have a look and they'll have a legitimate shot at making our club, just look at last year."

Shortstop Aaron Hornostaj made the team after his showing at the open tryouts last year, but don't think it's as easy as just picking up a bat and glove - he had previous experience at the AAA level with the San Francisco Giants organization. But still, it shows the coaching staff actually watches and gives serious consideration to what they see.

If baseball's not your thing though, maybe pulling on the blue, white and red of FC Edmonton suits you better.

The team's main training camp is underway this week, but they are also holding tryouts for regular folk on April 23rd and the 29th at Foote Field (you can register on their website or just show up an hour before). The downside is, it costs $100 to tryout...but if you make the team, they'll reimburse you.

So, if you've been training hard all winter and you've spent the spring looking for something to do - there you go!

Kerrzy's Notebook: The Sportsmanlike Spectrum

Sports is a funny thing – as an athlete you do everything you can to gain an advantage on your opponent, whether it’s physically, mentally or otherwise…

Where’s the line though? Some people play with a “code” in mind, others will do or say literally just about anything to get an opposing player off their game – whether its within the rules or not.

Then there are the solo sports, where there isn’t as much interaction between competitors and an honor system of sorts is an even bigger part of the game. And then there are the fans…

Here’s a story from this weekend that takes sportsmanship to a level you don’t see very often:

This weekend’s stop on the PGA Tour had 35-year-old Brian Davis in a playoff with Jim Furyk for the win at the Verizon Heritage in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

On the first playoff hole, a Davis error went unnoticed – at least by everyone else – and he alerted the tournament director.

What happened is, the Englishman had “ticked a loose reed during his backswing,” which is apparently a two-stroke penalty and upon further review, the two strokes were added to his score, handing Furyk the win and the $1,026,000 in prize money.

Not only did Davis miss out on over $410,000 – it would have been his first PGA Tour victory.

What would you do in that case? I have a sneaking suspicion that not everyone would be as honest as Brian Davis.

We go now from golf to (college) football, where unsportsmanlike behavior won’t just cost your team yardage anymore.

It used to be that if a ref decided a player was “taunting” the other team as he ran in a touchdown or (God forbid) celebrated afterwards, a 15-yard penalty would be tagged onto the extra point attempt or the ensuing kickoff…but that’s about to change.

According to Yahoo! Sports, if a player gets goofy as he runs towards the end zone, the flags will fly, the whistle will blow and the penalty will be assessed from the spot of the “foul” – canceling the touchdown.

So no more high-stepping or any similar stunts when players do their job and score points. What kind of world are we living in?

There will also be no more of that black face paint with symbols (team logos etc.) or messages (scripture and whatnot) allowed. Not sure why, but that’s the new rule.

I’ve always wondered how they get the team logos and stuff in there. Are they little stickers?

Moving on – we’ve tackled the on-field stuff, but here’s a story I found that you’ll probably find rather disturbing (and pretty funny, in a crude way).

During last Wednesday’s game between the MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies and the Washington Nationals, a 21-year-old guy from New Jersey made a couple of bad decisions.

I’m not sure what led him down this path, but the guy wound up throwing up (intentionally) on an off-duty police captain and his 11-year-old daughter and punching the officer in the face.

The reports say Matthew Clemmens shoved two fingers down his throat and let fly on Michael Vangelo and his daughter, and punched him as he tried to get his kids in behind him.

First of all, it’s a Wednesday night – take it easy kid. Secondly, who intentionally throws up on someone, never mind a child? Finally – bad choice of people to punch man.

The oddest part is, apparently it was in protest of his buddy being kicked out for, guess what – unruly behavior.

For that, Clemmens now faces charges of assault, reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct and “related offences” (I think there’s at least one party foul in there).

Can you top that story?

Kerrzy's Notebook: Eurotrip

I know there’s a lot of hockey left to be played this spring, but there’s something interesting coming up for those of you already looking to next season.

As has been the case the past few years, the NHL will take its show on the road to start the 2010/11 season – which will include a couple of games in Mother Russia.

Several media outlets are reporting that two games will likely be played in St. Petersburg and Moscow – home of four Kontinental Hockey League teams: SKA St. Petersburg, CSKA Moscow, Dynamo Moscow and Spartak Moscow.

Now, they’re only exhibition games, but not only is the NHL going into enemy territory here – they’re going to be playing where the highest concentration of KHL teams exist. Hope they make it out alive!

When the time finally comes, it’ll be two teams from the group of six that are headed to Europe to start the season – Carolina, Minnesota Columbus, San Jose, Boston and Phoenix. It’s tough to say who out of that group will be part of the Russia games, since none of the teams have more than a couple of Russians on their current squads (if that would even factor into it).

If the thinking behind this little trip is to give the Russian fans an up close look at how much better the NHL is than their beloved KHL, you probably wouldn’t want Carolina, Minnesota or Columbus in there…which leaves us with three teams.

In San Jose you’ve got regular season all-star Evgeni Nabokov, though the good people of Russia may still be a little sour on him after the big Olympic flop (never mind his little OT blunder on Sunday). Then there’s Ilya Bryzgalov with Phoenix – they could pit the two Russian netminders against one another for a bit of publicity.

Then again, it’s something that probably won’t need much publicity to garner interest over there.

Whatever the case, I think it’s a bit funny that they’re doing this – it’s not like you need to sell Russians on the game of hockey. It’s clearly a ploy to tick off Alex Medvedev and the rest of the KHL management.

Lets just hope they don’t get too mad, if you know what I’m saying!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Random Friday Thoughts

Going For It!

If you’re a big CFL fan – which I know a lot of you are (Go Eskimos!) – you’ll be hoping for some OT this season.

The league announced some new rules this week, including one that makes teams go for a two-point conversion after an overtime touchdown, instead of just kicking the single point. And yes, that’s another rule change suggested by you the fans, which is a pretty cool way for the league to evolve its rulebook in my opinion.

A couple of other rule changes include a team that gives up a field goal in regulation can now scrimmage from its 35-yard line or receive a kickoff, if a pass is deemed uncatchable, there will be no pass interference penalties and if a punted ball hits the ground and then a player from the covering team, it’s now a five yard penalty instead of 15.

I like that overtime rule though, because the single point is a bit of a yawner (though occasionally guys do still miss it).

Did I Do That?

Sure, Tiger Woods is a big deal now, but what about back in college?

The NY Daily News reports that when he was majoring in math and playing on the Stanford University golf team, he wasn’t exactly the big wheel he is now. In fact, they had a nickname for him at the school:

“The golf team is not like being a college football player, it’s not like he was a basketball star – so he wasn’t considered the big man on campus,” says a college buddy in an US Magazine clip – delivering probably the most obvious statement man has even given.

Apparently Woods found his nickname to be insulting and borderline racist. Maybe 1994 was a different time, but I’d assume that calling him “Urkel” had more to do with him being a straight-A math major than anything to do with race…

On the topic of Tiger – Hugh Hefner turned 84 this week and threw in his two cents on the whole Woods scandal:

“This whole idea that it's a sex addiction is a copout. Some people become obsessed with sex, but it's not like an alcohol or drug addiction. He did it because he could get away with it."

Cowboys Implode (their stadium)

With the Dallas Cowboys playing in that new state of the art stadium worth over a billion dollars, there was no need for that old barn they used to play in – so they demolished it this week.

Believe it or not, over 20,000 people showed up to watch the implosion of Texas Stadium, with some even paying $25 to park their cars – sort of like a drive-in implosion I would imagine.

Either way, here is a fairly awesome view of the proceedings:

Maybe when the Oilers get a new building they’ll do something cool like this in Edmonton!

Are the Jays toast?

The MLB season is in full swing, and so far the Toronto Blue Jays are doing fairly well – but how long before they’re toast?

Well, that’s really up to you.

As NBC’s Out of Bounds blog tells us, it has finally happened – starting on May 1st, for just $35, you can buy a toaster that will brand your bread with the logo of your favorite baseball team.

Lame? Absolutely. Funny? Absolutely.

Apparently Pangea Brands isn’t stopping there – they’re said to be working on FDA approved magic markers for kids to draw on their toast and a toaster that stamps collegiate logos.

They even say that one day, superfans and stalkers alike may be able to burn the face of their favorite player into their bread.

What will they think of next?

Out of the Park

Speaking of baseball – the NY Yankees lost 9-7 to the Boston Red Sox on opening night, with pitcher Chan Ho Park taking the “L” next to his name when all was said and done.

Park allowed three runs on three hits, including a Dustin Pedroia two-run homer, and he didn’t even last the whole seventh inning. If you’re saying to yourself, boy he really [expletive] the bed…you’re kind of right.

Here’s what Park said after the game when asked about his performance:

God bless the honest athlete!

Steroids, now Chew?

As I was surfing the ESPN website looking for the boxscore of the opening night game, I stumbled upon another interesting little tidbit from the ball diamond.

US Congress, in its pursuit to rid the game of baseball of every thinkable evil, is now tackling the use of smokeless tobacco (or chewing tobacco, as most of us know it as).

They’re calling on the league and the players association to ban players from using the stuff during games…and if you’ve ever watched a baseball game, there are a lot of players who partake.

ESPN reports that smoking cigarettes in uniform and in view of the public isn’t allowed and smokeless tobacco has been banned in the minors since 1993 (when the movie Rookie of the Year came out, a kids movie that ironically does feature players chewing tobacco).

I’m sorry, but some politicians are just plain stupid. Like Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat, who offered up this gem:

"Why don't they just chew gum if they feel the need to chew something?"

I’m not sure if she knows this about tobacco (smokeless or otherwise), but it’s pretty addictive stuff. I grew up playing hockey and know a ton of guys that chew tobacco, and it’s just like the other kind of tobacco – it gets you hooked. Gum isn’t as addictive, I’ve heard.

This is an interesting topic though, because it’ll take a lot to get that outlawed. I wonder what they’ll decide to tackle next?

I hope its getting rid of tight pants in football.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Glendale White Sox

The latest chapter is being written in the ongoing saga of the Phoenix Coyotes.

It looks like Jerry Reinsdorf, the owner of the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Bulls, will soon have himself an NHL club after all. The Associated Press reports that a day before the Coyotes’ first playoff game since 2002, Glendale City Council approved Reinsdorf’s proposed arena lease agreement with a 6-0 vote.

This, despite a watchdog organization blasting the Glendale Hockey proposal a day earlier.

The Reinsdorf bid intends to keep the team where it is – at least for the next five years – and plans on changing its name from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Glendale or Arizona Coyotes. There are 24 years left on the lease with Jobing.com arena, but if certain conditions aren’t met by the fifth year, all Reinsdorf has to do is give a 180-day notice that his group intends to sell the team.

That’s when the whole cycle begins again.

The meat of the deal seems to involve the creation of a “community facilities district,” which is “a special district that can issue tax-exempt bonds for the planning, design, acquisition, construction, and/or operation of public facilities, as well as provide public services to district residents. Special tax assessments levied by the district are used to repay the bonds.”

Make sense? Yeah, I’m not too clear on what that all really means either.

According to the AP, the Phoenix Coyotes have never turned a profit since moving from Winnipeg in 1996. Isn’t that something?

Despite the success of the Coyotes this year and all the press (both positive and negative), the NHL says it expects the team to lose another $20-million this season.

Maybe they should have applied for some of that Obama bailout money.

Oh, and remember Ice Edge Holdings?

They’re the group that wanted to buy the team and hold a few games each year in smaller-market Canadian cities. Their bid was shut down by a vote of 5-1, despite claims that they had already raised as much as $250-million to cover the purchase of the team plus losses and other costs.

All this, and there are still no guarantees about the team staying put. Looks like we haven’t heard the last of that storyline.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: NHL Playoff Preview - Eastern Conference

Earlier, I previewed the matchups in the West - now it's time to move to the other side of things and take a look at how things shape up in the East.

The Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators join the Canucks as the only Canadian teams in the running for the Cup - they both face some tough competition right out of the gate. Here's a look at how the Eastern Conference series' look:

(1) Washington vs. (8) Montreal

The Habs had a tough time clinching that playoff spot of theirs and what's their reward? A trip to Washington to face the highest scoring team in the league. If you look at the season series it's not all bad news though - Montreal went 2-1-1 against the Capitals this season, but it will going to take something special for them come out of this series on top. The Caps won 15 more games and scored 101 more goals this season than the Canadiens did and they've got a group of forwards that seem to be able to put the puck in the net at will. In all, Washington has seven forwards with at least 21 goals on the season and defenseman Mike Green is right behind that group with 19. Montreal has a fairly deep group too, but consistency has been an issue this season. Washington goalie Jose Theodore hasn't quite proven that he can be the guy that takes this team to the next level, but fending off the Habs will be a good start.

My Prediction: Capitals in five

Thursday, April 15 at Washington, 7:00 p.m. TSN
Saturday, April 17 at Washington, 7:00 p.m. TSN
Monday, April 19 at Montreal, 7:00 p.m. TSN
Wednesday, April 21 at Montreal, 7:00 p.m. TSN
*Friday, April 23 at Washington, 7:00 p.m. TSN
*Monday, April 26 at Montreal, 7:00 p.m. TSN
*Wednesday, April 28 at Washington, TBD TSN

(2) New Jersey vs. (7) Philadelphia

-The Philadelphia Flyers and the NJ Devils took very different routes to get into the postseason this year - the Flyers got in thanks to a shootout win over the NY Rangers on the last day of the regular season, while the Devils won the Atlantic Division to secure home ice advantage. You might be surprised to hear that Philly beat New Jersey in five of the six meetings between the two clubs this season, but that means nothing now. The Flyers made the East final two years ago, but were ousted in the first round by the Penguins last season - I think that will be the case again this year. They've got talent and they've got guys that can puck the puck in the net, but the New Jersey Devils are a well-oiled machine with all kinds of depth. The addition of Ilya Kovalchuk only made the team stronger, and Zach Parise is due for a big playoff run. In goal, it'll be tough for Brian Boucher or Michael Leighton to win the battle with Martin Brodeur...but it can be done.

My Prediction: Devils in six

Wednesday, April 14 at New Jersey, 7:30 p.m. TSN
Friday, April 16 at New Jersey, 7:30 p.m. TSN
Sunday, April 18 at Philadelphia, 6:00 p.m. TSN
Tuesday, April 20 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m. TSN2
*Thursday, April 22 at New Jersey, 7:00 p.m. TSN
*Sunday, April 25 at Philadelphia, TBD TSN
*Tuesday, April 27 at New Jersey, 7:30 p.m. TSN

(3) Buffalo vs. (6) Boston

-The Boston Bruins beat the Buffalo Sabres in four of their six meetings this season, but none of those games were decided by more than two goals. This will be a tight series that could come down to a showdown between Buffalo's Ryan Miller and Boston's Tim Thomas and rookie Tuukka Rask. As we saw at the Olympics, Miller is a phenomenal goaltender, but Rask was ahead of him in Goals Against Average and Save Percentage to end the season. Both teams are pretty even in terms of offensive depth, with the Sabres taking the edge in 20-goal scorers, and Thomas Vanek is hot heading into the postseason with five goals in his final two games to end the season with 28. The Bruins have been without play-maker Marc Savard since early March, but if they get out of the first round he could be back which would give their offence a lift.

My Prediction: Boston in seven

Thursday, April 15 at Buffalo, 7:00 p.m. CBC
Saturday, April 17 at Buffalo, 1:00 p.m. CBC
Monday, April 19 at Boston, 7:00 p.m. CBC
Wednesday, April 21 at Boston, 7:00 p.m. CBC
*Friday, April 23 at Buffalo, 7:00 p.m. CBC
*Monday, April 26 at Boston, 7:00 p.m. CBC
*Wednesday, April 28 at Buffalo, 7:00 p.m. CBC

(4) Pittsburgh vs. (5) Ottawa

-The Ottawa Senators can do the rest of the playoff teams a big favour if they can knock off the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in their first round matchup, but it'll take a lot for that to happen. The Penguins, fresh off back-to-back appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals, are showing no signs of slowing down as they try to go for two straight Cups. On any given night, Sidney Crosby is capable of victimizing opponents by himself but players like Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg have shown that it is possible to shut him down. Can the Senators do that? Probably. Can they do it for long enough to be the first to four wins? Doubtful. If Jason Spezza is on top of his game, it's possible that the Sens can make some noise in this series, but the goaltending isn't there and I'm not sure that Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher have enough to outshine Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and company. As well, it'll take a big effort for Brian Elliot or Pascal Leclaire to out duel Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury when it comes to goaltending.

My Prediction: Pittsburgh in five

Wednesday, April 14 at Pittsburgh, 7:00 p.m. CBC
Friday, April 16 at Pittsburgh, 7:00 p.m. CBC
Sunday, April 18 at Ottawa, 6:30 p.m. CBC
Tuesday, April 20 at Ottawa, 7:00 p.m. CBC
*Thursday, April 22 at Pittsburgh, 7:00 p.m. CBC
*Saturday, April 24 at Ottawa, 7:00 p.m. CBC
*Tuesday, April 27 at Pittsburgh, 7:00 p.m. CBC

Kerrzy’s Notebook: NHL Playoff Preview - Western Conference

Thirty teams started the season, but only sixteen remain as the quest for Lord Stanley’s mug begins on Wednesday night.

There were some pretty good battles for playoff spots and playoff position, including a shootout on the final day of the regular season to determine which of the two teams participating would play beyond that day – but the matchups are now set and it’s time to get down to business!

Here’s a quick preview of each series, starting with the Western Conference:

(1) San Jose vs. (8) Colorado

This is a pivotal year for the San Jose Sharks – I felt bad for them last season when they drew the Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the playoffs, because I knew that would be a tough test for them, and it wound up being too much. The Sharks are one of the best regular season teams of the last five years, but they’ve never been able to translate that into postseason success. They have a pretty favorable pairing this year though against the eighth seeded Avalanche, with whom they split their season series 2-2. The benefit the Avs have is that they’ve been playing in playoff mode for a couple of weeks now, but it will take a monster effort from goalie Craig Anderson to keep his team in this one. The leadership core of the Sharks has something to prove this year, and beating Colorado is the first step. I say Anderson will have to be big for the Avalanche, well it’s just as important for Evgeni Nabokov to be in top form, as he’s had some off-days since a disappointing Olympics.

My Prediction: Sharks in six

Wednesday, April 14 at San Jose, 10:30 p.m. CBC
Friday, April 16 at San Jose, 10:30 p.m. CBC
Sunday, April 18 at Colorado, 9:30 p.m. CBC
Tuesday, April 20 at Colorado, 10:00 p.m. CBC
*Thursday, April 22 at San Jose, 10:30 p.m. CBC
*Saturday, April 24 at Colorado, TBD CBC
*Monday, April 26 at San Jose, TBD CBC

(2) Chicago vs. (7) Nashville

The Chicago Blackhawks are coming off another great season as they continue to mature as a team and you know they’ll be hoping to take it a step further this spring. The Nashville Predators are a team that is deceptively deep up front though and a gritty team that can grind you down over the course of a seven game series. These two teams know each other very well, meeting up six times this season, with the Hawks winning four of those matchups. Chicago is a young team with a lot of firepower, but they’ve also got some experienced playoff guys like two-time Stanley Cup winner John Madden and Marian Hossa, who has played in the last two finals (though escaped without a ring). One area where they could be exposed is between the pipes, but most of the time their goaltending is okay. I think the Predators will try to shut this one down by playing a gritty, defensive type game, which I think they are capable of doing…but I don’t see them winning this series.

My Prediction: Hawks in five

Friday, April 16 at Chicago, 8:30 p.m. TSN2
Sunday, April 18 at Chicago, 8:30 p.m. TSN
Tuesday, April 20 at Nashville, 9:00 p.m. TSN
Thursday, April 22 at Nashville, 8:30 p.m. TSN2
*Saturday, April 24 at Chicago, 3:00 p.m. TSN
*Monday, April 26 at Nashville, TBD TSN
*Wednesday, April 28 at Chicago, TBD TSN

(3) Vancouver vs. (6) Los Angeles

The last time these two teams met in the regular season, the Kings lit Roberto Luongo up for eight goals on 29 shots in an 8-3 win, avoiding the season series sweep at the hands of the Canucks. That game will give the LA shooters all the confidence in the world that they can punish the world-class net minder, which could be a factor in this series. Luongo is prone to games like that every now and again, including a 7-4 loss to Chicago in the playoffs last year. Overall though, the Canucks are a strong team and it’ll be tough for the Kings to contain the Sedin twins and guys like Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler. Vancouver wound up scoring the second most goals this season behind only Washington, but the Kings were in that top ten as well, so this could be a high-scoring series. This one could come down to goaltending and believe it or not, Jonathan Quick and Roberto Luongo have pretty even stats.

My Prediction: Kings in seven

Thursday, April 15 at Vancouver, 10:00 p.m. CBC
Saturday, April 17 at Vancouver, 10:00 p.m. CBC
Monday, April 19 at Los Angeles, 10:00 p.m. CBC
Wednesday, April 21 at Los Angeles, 10:00 p.m. CBC
*Friday, April 23 at Vancouver, 10:00 p.m. CBC
*Sunday, April 25 at Los Angeles, TBD CBC
*Tuesday, April 27 at Vancouver, TBD CBC

(4) Phoenix vs. (5) Detroit

There was a time this season when it looked like the Detroit Red Wings might miss the playoffs for the first time in a long time – but a 16-3-2 record since the Olympic break ensured that didn’t happen. Like the Edmonton Oilers, the Red Wings had some pretty substantial injury issues this season and it took until the final 20-some games for them to have a full lineup – but when they got a full team back, they really turned it on. On the other side of the coin, the Phoenix Coyotes have been probably the biggest surprise in the NHL this season, putting up 50 wins and 107 points, challenging the Sharks for the Pacific Division title. A big part of their success was solid goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov and a solid group of forwards that they added to at the trade deadline. For example, Lee Stempniak had 14 goals and 18 points in 18 games since the trade deadline. Back to the Wings though – they’ve got everyone firing on all cylinders and rookie Jimmy Howard has played great between the pipes. This will be a great series that could go the distance. The difference for the Wings this year is that they’re on the other end of the standings and have been battling for weeks now, which means they’ll have a different mindset coming into these playoffs.

My Prediction: Detroit in six

Wednesday, April 14 at Phoenix, 10:00 p.m. TSN
Friday, April 16 at Phoenix, 10:00 p.m. TSN
Sunday, April 18 at Detroit, 3:00 p.m. TSN
Tuesday, April 20 at Detroit, 6:30 p.m. TSN
*Friday, April 23 at Phoenix, 10:00 p.m. TSN
*Sunday, April 25 at Detroit, 2:00 p.m. TSN
*Tuesday, April 27 at Phoenix, TBD TSN

Monday, April 12, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Playin' the Lotto

It's been an interesting couple of days for Oilers fans, and that will continue on Tuesday night.

On Sunday, the Oilers wrapped up an extremely disappointing season with a 7-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. After the game, Sportsnet's Mark Spector dropped an exclusive bit of news about the latest big name player to ask for his ticket out of town - Sheldon Souray. Don't worry though folks, good news is coming.

The NHL Draft Lottery goes on Tuesday night in Toronto and EdmontonOilers.com is billing it "one of the biggest days in the history of the club."

Why is that? Well incase you haven't heard, the Oil have a 48.2% chance at claiming the first overall pick and no matter what happens, they'll be choosing no worse than second overall.

The Oilers website has tons of information to get you all set up for the big 6pm event and even has a Draft Lottery Simulator, which I tried out for you already: In four of the five times I clicked the link, the Oil wound up with the first overall pick.

With two could-be number one's this year though, would you want first pick or would you be happy with second? I ask that because it's going to be a tough choice for the Oilers if they wind up with that top pick.

Last week, NHL Central Scouting released its final rankings for the season, with Plymouth Whalers centre Tyler Seguin moving past Windsor Spitfires winger Taylor Hall into first place on the list. Both of those guys finished with 108 regular season points this year in the OHL, but Hall's (heavily favoured) Spitfires crushed Seguin's Whalers in the second round of the playoffs.

It's believed the Oilers are leaning towards Seguin because he plays a position that they aren't very deep at, but he might not be NHL-ready just yet. If that's the case, rushing him into the lineup before he's ready would be the worst thing management could do.

The draft isn't the only place you can stock up on guys that play in the middle though.

If Seguin won't quite be NHL-ready for the upcoming season, maybe Taylor Hall is your guy, despite the fact that you've already got a lot of wingers. I'm of the mindset that you take the best player available - and with an extra year of junior over Seguin, I think Hall is the guy most likely to be able to make an impact right away at the NHL level.

Another thing to keep an eye on is who winds up with the other top-two pick - it was rumoured last month that the Oilers were talking to the Boston Bruins about swinging a deal to get their pick, should they wind up in the top two.

Wouldn't that be interesting?

That's obviously a huge risk to take because you'd have to give up something significant to make that deal happen, but it's a move that would give the Oilers one of the most lethal stockpiles of young talent in the league.

Eberle, Paajarvi-Svensson, Hall, Seguin...think of the possibilities!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Saturday Night Fights

It was a busy night for fights on Saturday – there was outdoor UFC action in Abu Dhabi, Evander Holyfield beat Frans Botha in Vegas, but I’m giving my nod to another Evander for fight of the night.

Evander Kane of the Atlanta Thrashers, named after the now 47-year-old pugilist who once had part of his ear nibbled off, showed a different side of his game on Saturday night – getting in a tilt early in the second period of a 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins (and handing the NJ Devils the Atlantic Division title).

I don’t know if I would call it a fight, per se, though…but it was a beautiful thing.

If there’s one guy in the NHL that deserves to get his butt kicked, it’s probably Matt Cooke. In an age where certain players seem to have lost respect for one another, Cooke finds himself as the poster boy for that style of game after several dirty hits in the past two seasons.

On Saturday, Cooke was up to his old tricks, trying to get under the skin of the 18-year-old Kane, which turned out to be a bad idea.

All it took was one punch.

Feel free to watch it a few times – it gets better each time.

Kane on the fight (via Yahoo! Sports):

“He challenged me and asked me to fight, and I was not going to back down. It’s part of the game.”

Atlanta coach John Anderson on the Pens hounding his player for a couple of hits on Sidney Crosby:

“If they take exception to who gets hit out there, does that mean you are supposed to start a fight? I don’t get it. Crosby is so great for this game, but when you’re always around the puck, you’re going to get hit a little bit. Every time he gets body checked, does that mean somebody is going to get attacked? Cooke came at an 18-year-old. What goes around, comes around. That’s all I can tell you.”

Oh snap! Ain’t that the truth! Wouldn’t it be a sweet dose of karma if Cooke wound up with a concussion and missed some action?

I’m not saying I hope it happens, but if it did happen – I wouldn’t feel bad for him.

On the topic of fights, check out this Sports Illustrated Players Poll on who the league’s toughest fighter is. There are a couple of surprises in there, but the Heavyweight Champ is pretty clear-cut.

Check back before Wednesday for a playoff preview!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Random Friday Thoughts

Guess who’s back?

On Thursday, Tiger Woods made his return to professional golf on day one of the Masters at Augusta, but he wasn’t alone.

Yeah, there were obviously other guys golfing, but Tiger had an “army” of NINETY bodyguards according to Britain’s The Daily Mail. That includes some former FBI and Secret Service agents and armed deputies.

What are they worried about?

Believed it or not, as the Daily Mail reports, “the unprecedented security is in place because of fears he may be confronted by one of his 15 alleged mistresses.”

Woods needs the Secret Service, on top of the 200 regular security guards already working the tournament, because he’s scared that someone he slept with might come say hello?

Apparently if one of his super-mistresses manages to pierce the outer layer of security forces, they’ll be confronted with his “last line of defense” – eight bodyguards surrounding the 34-year-old.

It seems some of those bodyguards are being a little too proactive though – Britain’s The Sun reports that (at least) one woman was approached with this question:

“Excuse me ma’am – are you the stripper?”

Also – what’s with this new Nike commercial?

Follow Tiger’s progress at the Masters here.

Slump? What Slump?

The Major League Baseball season began last weekend and this may be the best story we hear all year:

After starting the first two games of the season without a hit, reporters in Boston apparently got on David Ortiz about a “slow start,” reminding him that he had a tough go in the first couple of months last year as well.

What happened next was fantastic – Big Papi flipped out! Here it is from ESPN:

"You guys wait 'til [expletive] happens, then you can talk [expletive]. Two [expletive] games, and already you [expletives] are going crazy.

"What's up with that, man? [Expletive]. [Expletive] 160 games left. That's a [expletive]. One of you [expletives] got to go ahead and hit for me."

Personally, I love how they put [expletive] in place of all the swear words. I think I might start doing that. [Expletive].

Hard Done By

New York Yankees president Randy Levine had some pretty good quotes this week too, throwing some heat at the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers.

After hearing that Mark Attanasio was having trouble re-signing first baseman Prince Fielder, Levine basically told him to shut up.

"I'm sorry that my friend Mark continues to whine about his running the Brewers. We play by all the rules and there doesn't seem to be any complaints when teams such as the Brewers receive hundreds of millions of dollars that they get from us in revenue sharing the last few years. Take some of that money that you get from us and use that to sign your players."

“The question that should be asked is: Where has the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue sharing gone?"

Oh snap! That’s a good point – if you benefit from a crap load (or an [expletive] load) of basically free money, don’t complain about not being able to sign your stars.

I think it’s great that someone called him out!

Spelling mistakes

Making a spelling mistake in something like a blog is one thing – but on your team’s jersey, well that’s a whole other ballgame.

Remember last year when a couple players from the Washington Nationals had their jerseys read the “Natinals?” This time in happened in San Francisco.

Eugenio Velez made his season debut late in the game with a jersey that read “San Francicso” across the front.

He said after the game that he didn’t even notice…how do these things even happen?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Oilers This Week

Last week:

The Edmonton Oilers went winless last week, stretching their current losing skid to five in a row.

The team battled hard in a 5-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings that came down to a goal with 1:07 to go, before falling to the Stars and the Coyotes. In Dallas, the Oil went down 3-0, battled back to 3-3 and lost 6-3 and then lose 3-2 in a shootout the next day.

With the loss to the Wings, the Oilers clinched last place overall.

This week:

Edmonton is at home to the Minnesota Wild and the Colorado Avalanche to begin the week, before they head to California for games against the Kings and the Ducks. This is the last week of the 2009/2010 season for the Oil (and the Wild, maybe the Avs and the Ducks).

Wild @ Oilers
Monday April 5th - Pre game: 6pm, Puck drop: 7:30pm; 630 CHED

-This is the final meeting of the season between the two Northwest Division rivals, neither of whom will be playing beyond the regular season. A win for the Oil would tie the season-series at three each. The Wild come into this week having lost three straight and four of five. Mikko Koivu leads the team in scoring with 68 points in 77 games, while Guillaume Latendresse leads the team in scoring with 25 goals, followed by Andrew Brunette with 24. Between the pipes, Nik Backstrom has been the go-to guy all season despite suffering a few injuries. He's got 26 wins in 57 starts and is always capable of stealing the show.

Avalanche @ Oilers
Wednesday April 7th - Pre game: 6pm, Puck drop: 7:30pm; 630 CHED

-Win or lose, the Oilers will get a chance to play the role of spoiler against the Colorado Avalanche this week - a win would hurt Colorado's chances at a playoff berth, while a loss would hurt Calgary's shot. Coming into this week, the Avs had lost four of five but sit two points up on the Flames for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, with a game in hand. Colorado is led by youngster Paul Stastny, who has 76 points in 78 games this season, with Chris Stewart leading the way goal-wise with 28. In all, the Avalanche have four players with at least 19 goals. In goal, Craig Anderson has made 69 starts, putting up 37 wins along the way.

Oilers @ Kings
Saturday April 10th - Pre game: 2:30pm, Puck drop: 4pm; 630 CHED

-The Los Angeles Kings have already clinched a playoff spot, so the Oilers can't hurt them there, however where they wind up in the Western standings is still up for debate. Heading into this week, the Kings sit in seventh place but they are three points out of fifth. They'll be looking to help themselves out with some big points to end the season for a more favourable first round matchup. This season, the Kings are 2-0-1 against the Oilers, losing in a shootout in the last meeting between the two teams in early February. LA is a dangerous team on offence with players like Anze Kopitar (34g, 78pts), Alex Frolov (18g, 50pts) and Dustin Brown (21g, 29pts), among others. On the blue line, Drew Doughty is another player to watch, with 15 goals and 56 points to sit second in team scoring. Between the pipes, Jonathan Quick has 39 wins in his second full NHL season.

Oilers @ Ducks
Sunday April 11th - Pre game: 6:30pm, Puck drop: 8pm; 630 CHED

-This one could get ugly - last game of the year, two (probably) non-playoff teams and two teams that have grown to dislike each other, which has been fairly evident in their last few meetings. The Ducks are playing well lately but it appears to be too little too late - coming into this week, they've won four of five and are 8-2-1 in their last eleven games. Still though, they sit six points of eighth and would need a lot of help to make the playoffs. Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan lead the Ducks offensively, with 73, 69 and 58 points respectively. Ryan leads the team in goal scoring with 31 goals, while veterans like Teemu Selanne (24g, 45pts) provide a good one-two punch up front. In goal, Jonas Hiller has been the clear-cut number one since the team dealt JS Giguere to the Leafs - he's on the verge of his first 30-win season, posting a 29-23-3 record with a 2.76 GAA and a .917 save percentage.

Who's hot:

Tom Gilbert - The defenseman has been putting up a lot of points since he's taken on more responsibility with the team and since he's been paired up with fellow American Ryan Whitney. Gilbert has four points in his last three games and eight points in seven games.

Dustin Penner - The big-bodied forward is looking for his first career 30-goal season and after goals in his last two games (and three points), the 6-foot-4, 243-pounder has 29. His game has been given a boost by playing alongside Andrew Cogliano.

What to watch for:

Playing for Jobs - Just like the last few weeks, a lot of players are fighting for employment with the Oilers beyond this season. Who will step up and try to impress the coaching staff?

New guys - Charles Linglet played his first career NHL game on Friday night after leading the Springfield Falcons in scoring all year down in the AHL; Ryan Jones is back in the lineup after getting hurt in his first game with the Oilers. It will be interesting to see how these guys stack up.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Random Friday Thoughts (on a Monday)

First Big Test

I’ve been a critic of the NHL’s wishy-washy stance on headshots and the inconsistent way they dish out suspensions for things they pretend to care about – well, here’s the first big test of their new headshot rule.

The new rule was mostly aimed at blindside hits to the head, but on Thursday night, Colby Armstrong of the Atlanta Thrashers delivered a flying elbow of sorts to the face of Mathieu Perreault of the Washington Capitals.

After the game, Armstrong told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “I didn’t mean to get my arms up in his kitchen like that. It just happened so fast. I tried to get a piece of him.”

See it for yourself:

If James Wisniewski’s hit on Brent Seabrook was eight games, this is at least a suspension…according to the NHL’s way of doing things. We’ll see though!

NHL charging in the US?!

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is apparently telling league owners (and potential owners) that TV revenue is about to get serious.

Yes, the NHL may actually charge broadcasters (NBC) to show games when their current contracts are up! Crazy, eh?!

The Globe and Mail reports the US television contracts bring in about $75-million per year with what they charge Versus and what they split with NBC – Bettman says that number could more than double after June 2011.

Along with what they make from the Canadian networks, that could mean as much as $500-million for the league and its 30 teams to share.

David Shoalts’ article also touches on the still-delicate Phoenix Coyotes situation – where June 30th pops up as an important day.

That’s when the NHL, who still owns the team, can legally break the arena lease with the city of Glendale and potentially sell the team to someone who will give it a nice home elsewhere. Ironically, Bettman and his deputy commissioner, Bill Daly have been working on a backup plan for the Coyotes which could see them back where it all began – Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Bettman and Daly have apparently been talking to Canadian billionaire David “Not Jim Balsillie” Thomson just incase neither Jerry Reinsdorf nor Ice Edge Holdings wind up purchasing the team.

Imagine the Coyotes wind up back in Winnipeg as the Jets – that would be something else!

Eave of Destruction

If you didn’t know who Patrick Eaves was before this week, chances are you do now!

Eaves earned a bit of infamy last weekend during a 1-0 win for his Detroit Red Wings when, deep into the sudden death portion of a shootout, he totally biffed on his opportunity to put the Wings ahead.

I’m not talking about missing the net or losing the puck – Eaves miscalculated on his approach and fell down face first, not even getting a shot on goal.

It was nice to see him laughing right afterwards, because personally I’d be all kinds of embarrassed and would be busy trying to disappear from sight.

Speaking to the Detroit Free Press a few days later, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was very philosophical in his reaction to what happened, saying:

“What I liked best is that he was laying on the ice, smiling. That’s what life is about – you get out there and you give it everything you’ve got. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and you get up, you have a smile on your face, you get ready to do it again… The reality is, I think it’s a great message to kids, I really do – you get up and you just keep plugging.”

Fabregas’ Fibula

In a story that makes last Wednesday’s Champions League draw between Arsenal and Barcelona even more epic – Cesc Fabregas is done for the season with a cracked right fibula.

Why does that up the epic-ness?

If you watched the game, it was all Barca for long stretches of the game including a first half where they should have been up by a handful of goals. At the stroke of half time, Arsenal’s Fabregas earned a yellow card, which ruled him out of the return leg, but his night wasn’t over.

Barca went up 2-0 with goals in the 46th and 59th minutes off the foot of striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but the home side got one back when Theo Walcott burst down the wing and beat Victor Valdes. Then, in the 84th minute, Fabregas was taken down by Carles Puyol in the box and was awarded a penalty kick.

The former Barca standout put it away with ease and immediately went down clutching at his leg – which basically means he scored a hugely important goal in what was a classic game…with a cracked bone in his leg.

What a hero.

For the record, Puyols maintains he's the one who was fouled, and I think I see his point.

Happy Easter Everybody!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Lacrosse comes to Xbox

The Edmonton Rush can clinch a playoff spot for the first time in franchise history this weekend, and starting at the end of April - you too can play for the NLL's Champions Cup.

The National Lacrosse League announced this week that they're taking the plunge and coming out with a video game for Xbox 360, via the platform's Indie Game Channel. The league is partnering with Crosse Studio and Triple B games to develop "NLL Lacrosse 2010," presented by Reebok Lacrosse, and the best part is, it'll only cost you about $5!

Even better, it'll be a fully customized game - none of this "#7 passes to #8, ohhhhh and a big save by #1" stuff like we've seen in certain unlicensed games in the past. You'll be able to run the ball up the field as Edmonton Rush forward Ryan Ward, toss it over to Gavin Prout and snipe on someone like, say, Matt Roik of the Washington Stealth.

That's just one example though - you can play as any of the league's eleven teams and the game features all the great things about the game of lacrosse; the behind the back shots, diving shots, fakes and of course, big hits. No word on if the Edmonton "Crush" will feature anywhere though...

As it turns out, this isn't a new idea for the National Lacrosse League - they've been trying hard to get a video game developed for years.

"It's been a long process, we've been negotiating and we've had discussions with the EA Sports of the world and we even had a developmental deal with Activision five years ago, the people that make guitar hero, about putting a game together," NLL commissioner George Daniel told 630 CHED's Dan Tencer last night on Inside Sports.

"But they've always come back to us and said 'well you know what, after looking at it further, we've decided that the audience for lacrosse just isn't there yet for the [research and development] and the funds necessary to develop a really good game that we would want to put on the market' - that's always been the obstacle for us."

Then along came a young developer by the name of Carlo Sunseri.

"He was very entrepreneurial, he came up with the idea of originally taking a European soccer video game and converted it to field lacrosse first, and then took that and now has converted it into box lacrosse game."

NLL Lacrosse 2010 will be available in Canada, the US, France, Germany, Italy Japan, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom starting around April 30th.

NOW - if only the CFL would take that lead and develop a game of their own! That's a game that is just screaming to be made...

Are you going to give the NLL video game a shot when it comes out? Let me know!