Friday, September 30, 2011

LFL to YEG?

Fathers lock up your daughters – the Lingerie Football League is coming to an arena near you.

Word came down this week that the LFL is planning to launch a six team Canadian league in 2012, which will include a franchise right here in the City of Champions! Edmonton will join Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Quebec City as new additions, with the Toronto Triumph coming over from the US division to round out LFL Canada.

“It’s a decision that’s been in the process of review and due diligence and vetting for almost 24 months,” says Mitchell Mortaza, the founder and chairman of the Lingerie Football League. “We considered all of those markets closely and one of the things we got really excited about is, as opposed to the US where you have only certain markets that are great sports towns, almost every sports town we looked at in Canada was just that.”

Of the six cities that will make up the Canadian league, five are already home to at least a couple of pro sports teams, which is something Mortaza says played a big role.

“One of the elements that really stuck with us in Edmonton is really the success that the CFL has had there, as well as the NHL, and the fact that it’s a small enough market that we can make a maximum impact with a brand of this scale.”

There are currently twelve teams in the LFL, with plans to expand to Australia for 2013 and Europe in 2014. That year, they’ll also be launching a tournament for the champions of each league, which will be played once every four years, wherever the FIFA World Cup is being played.

Hold on a second though – what exactly is Lingerie Football?

Well, it started out as a pay-per-view event called the Lingerie Bowl that went head-to-head with the NFL’s Super Bowl half time show. It’s basically a seven-against-seven brand of football with no field goals or punts, where you have to go for a first down on every fourth down. The field is 50 yards long and 30 yards wide and the players wear shoulder pads, elbow pads and kneepads, with hockey-style helmets and…well, lingerie.

Okay, so you’re a little skeptical – the man in charge says that’s understandable!

“Anything called Lingerie Football League that you don’t know about [and] you’ve never seen a game, I can imagine the reaction to it,” Mortaza says. “All I say to those folks is be fair to these ladies, these athletes, and go to your first game, or watch it on TV.”

“If your perception of this doesn’t instantly change, I would be shocked.”

Here’s where it gets interesting: Mortaza says a lot of the women playing for him come from high-level college athletic programs, and all of the women in the league go through some serious physical testing before they crack a roster.

The LFL is partnered up with the company that does the CFL combine testing each year…so if you’re hoping to try out for the Edmonton ________, you better hit the gym!

What do you think: Are you going to give the Lingerie Football League a shot?

NHL to Scrap Fighting?

Is fighting about to go the way of the red line in the National Hockey League?

With all the talk about headshots and concussions around pro sports these days, we all knew the topic was going to at least come up a few times. Add to that the fact that the league lost three ‘enforcer’ type players over the summer, and it became a perfect storm of sorts for the discussion to be had.

On one side of the debate, you’ve got the people who will argue that fighting is a part of the game and taking it out would just make the sport soft. Others will point out that the role of the enforcer is quickly evaporating and a lot of fights are pre-arranged and have little to no effect on the momentum of a game.

Both sides are right, to a certain extent: fighting is a pretty big part of the game, and has been for ages, but the game would probably be just fine without it.

The other layer to the argument is the one that the NHL is now looking into, and that is the injury side of the equation.

Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s senior vice president of player safety, confirmed to the CBC on Thursday that they’ll be examining whether or not fighting still has a place in the game.

He says they’re serious about studying blows to the head, which obviously leads them down that path. The league is doing a lot to try and change the behavior of players who target the head in open play, so it makes sense that they might cringe when they see something like this:


Let’s go right to the extreme here – if the league did decide to do away with fighting, what would happen?

I think the biggest thing would be that a lot of guys would be out of work. It would start in the NHL, but the same thing would happen in the AHL, the ECHL and the rest of the semi-pro ranks. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but it frees up roster spots for more skilled guys I suppose.

Another one you hear often is that players would just start dishing out cheap shots all the time, knowing that they wouldn’t have to step up and fight. That already happens in the NHL – guys like Sean Avery and Matt Cooke get away with dirty stuff out there all the time and rarely have to answer for it!

What the league could do is try to limit the number of times a guy fights by bring in a system like they have in the NBA with technical fouls – hand out a one game suspension for every X number of fighting majors a guy racks up.

It’s nothing huge, but it might help stop those “fights for the sake of fighting,” which are usually just a waste of time anyway. I personally love that the option to fight is there in hockey, but I’d rather see two captains go toe to toe in the third period of a 2-1 game than two heavyweights throw down just because they’re supposed to.

Will the NHL end up banning fighting? I strongly doubt it. Would it be that bad for the game if they did? I don’t think so.

What do you think: Would it be a mistake for the NHL to get rid of fighting, or has the time come?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Random Friday Thoughts: NBA Threats, World Record Goal, Best Story Ever

Stern Message

Is today the day?

Reports say NBA commissioner David Stern is getting ready to make some pretty serious threats about the current lockout situation facing the league. According to ESPN, Stern is about to tell the players that if progress isn’t made this weekend, he’ll go ahead and cancel the 2011-12 season.

Whether or not the players see it as a scare tactic or as a legitimate threat, they’re smart enough to know that a cancellation is coming eventually unless they manage to work out a deal. They are also smart enough to know that it hurts the owners too, and that when a deal is reached, what’s left of the season will be un-cancelled.

Still, to hear that type of chatter has got to be quite a wake up call for both sides! They’ve already put off training camp and cancelled a bunch of preseason games – obviously the regular season is next.

You know who probably doesn’t care too much about missing the first bit of the season? Kobe Bryant!

He says it’s “very possible” that he’ll be putting pen to paper on an incredibly generous offer from a team in Italy, which is where he spent part of his childhood. Virtus Bologna, which sounds like the scientific word for cold cuts that have gone bad, is apparently offering Bryant $2.5-million to play ten games between October 9th and November 16th. Not bad, eh?

I’m no player agent, but what Kobe should do is hold out and see how high he can drive the price from the teams that want him! Right now it’s $250,000 per game…I’m sure there’s a businessman in Dubai who could top that!

Headstrong

The Guinness Book of World Records is full of all kinds of odd stuff, and one Norwegian soccer team thinks it deserves a place among them.

Odd Grenland midfielder Jone Samuelsen may have scored the world’s longest header last weekend:


The team says Samuelsen headed the ball a whopping 57.3 meters before it crossed the goal line. To put that into perspective, pick up a soccer ball and give it a good whack with your forehead…Now add 50+ meters to that!

Man of Mystery

If anyone can beat this story, I’d love to hear it:

When Dublin topped Kerry in the Gaelic football All-Ireland Final at Croke Park last Sunday, they had a special guest on the pitch with them for the post-game celebrations, whether they knew it or not.

As the Irish Independent tells us, 27-year-old Stephen Molloy lived every fan’s dream at that game – just before the final whistle went, he hopped a barrier near where the team’s substitutes were sitting and ended up right in the middle of all the excitement!

Molloy says he threw on a tracksuit jacket that he saw lying around and, in an amazing turn of events, no one questioned who he was or why he was there. He spent over an hour on the field celebrating with the team, got on live TV and even found his way into the team picture! He even got to hold the trophy a bunch of times, which is an amazing feat when you consider that nobody there knew who he was.

When things started to wind down, Molloy just hopped back into the stands and headed home…where he watched the whole thing unfold again on the highlights.

You know, I wouldn’t believe him for a second if there wasn’t so much proof! Can you beat that story?

Other stuff…

The British Horseracing Authority wants jockeys to stop whipping the actual athletes so much…

The Wall Street Journal lists all the stuff you can do at MLB stadiums other than watch baseball…

From The Onion: God speaks out against football…

Monday, September 26, 2011

15 Minutes of Fame

Happy Monday!

This week on 15 Minutes of Fame: Hockey fans welcome a new era of NHL discipline, Oilers look good early on, the Drew Doughty holdout continues, Mike Modano retires as a Star, the Eskimos up & down season goes down (and AC gets KO’d), Manny Ramirez launches a comeback bid and Victor Ortiz runs his mouth.

In the GABBYs: Mariano Rivera, Tony Romo, Owen Hargreaves, Wayne Simmonds, the NBA & the NFL…and this week’s Punchline is Fox Sports!


See something you think should be a GABBY? You can get a hold of us on Twitter @15MinutesYEG, “Like” us on Facebook or shoot us an email at 15MinutesYEG@gmail.com!

For last week's episode, click here. Thanks for watching!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Random Friday Thoughts: The Shanny Era, Turkish FA Bans Men, Torres Misses a Sitter

The Shanahan Era

Brendan Shanahan officially kicked off his reign as the NHL’s head disciplinarian on Thursday in a big way!

Shanny suspended Flames forward Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (or “Peter Hyphen”) for the rest of the preseason (four games), plus one regular season game for a hit on Vancouver’s Matt Clackson on Tuesday. It was a pretty standard hit from behind, but nothing like what Jody Shelley did the next night!

Shelley absolutely destroyed Toronto's Darryl Boyce from behind, leaving the NHL’s VP of Player Safety no choice but to throw the book at him. The Flyers enforcer, who was suspended twice last season, will sit out the rest of the preseason (five games) and the first five games of the regular season, at a cost of $67,073.15.

Shanny let us know about the suspensions via a couple of videos on the NHL website on Thursday, a first for the league.

You know, I was a little bit worried about the level of consistency we’d be seeing from the NHL this season after watching the breakdown of the new headshot/boarding rules this week, but it might not be so bad after all. I still think it’s going to be very tough for the on-ice officials to pick out the subtleties of these rules at game speed, but the supplemental discipline side might make up for that.

With each suspension (and apparently with high profile non-suspensions) this season, Shanahan will be posting a video that outlines his decision. That level of transparency is something never seen before from the NHL, to my knowledge, and it’s being welcomed with open arms by the hockey community.

Imagine if this had been around for the last couple of seasons – wouldn’t it have been interesting to hear Colin Campbell defending his decision not to suspend Matt Cooke (over and over again)?

A Man’s Game?

Despite the constant diving and faking of injuries, soccer fans will tell you that their sport of choice is, in fact, a man’s game.

That’s not the case in Turkey though, where clubs known for fan violence have been forced to ban men from their stadiums! The Associated Press reports that only women and children under the age of 12 will be allowed in to watch teams that have been sanctioned for “unruly fan behavior.”

Over 41,000 women and children watched Fenerbahce play Manisaspor in Istanbul this week, which one player described as a “fun and pleasant atmosphere.”

Just how bad are the normal Fenerbahce fans?

The club was forced to play two games in an empty stadium after the fans stormed the field during an exhibition game and they also attacked journalists for critical coverage of the team, as an investigation continues into a match-fixing scandal.

No word on whether property damage around other parts of Istanbul is on the rise on game days.

New Worst Miss Ever?

Manchester United beat Chelsea 4-2 last weekend, but both teams could have easily filled the onion bag a few more times on the day.

Among the players who missed great opportunities was Fernando Torres, who found himself in the clear, dangled the goalie and then shot well wide of a wide open net.

The FA is usually pretty strict about people uploading its content onto YouTube, but some brilliant fan has recreated the incident using FIFA 11:


The video is pretty accurate, except that his shot was actually a little closer to the target…but a miss is a miss, right?

Other stuff…

The Onion tackles sports clich├ęs and, as usual, absolutely nails it!

The World Anti-Doping Agency wants nicotine banned from sports; Major League Baseball prepares to suspend 90% of its players…

The NFL warns its players to stop acting like real football players

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Breaking Down the NHL’s New Rules

If you were hoping for an NHL season free of headshot confusion, it doesn’t look like you’re going to get your wish this year.

The NHL put out a video this week, starring VP of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan, to help explain the changes to the rule that governs headshots and the rule that takes care of boarding. They both seem pretty straightforward…that is, until they get into the examples of what is legal and what isn’t!

Let’s start with the rule changes themselves:

The NHL has decided to take the ‘direction’ out of the wording of Rule 48 – meaning that we won’t be looking for North/South vs. East/West this season. Instead, any hit where the head is targeted in “an intentional and/or reckless way,” and is the principal point of contact, is now a minor penalty.

It’s now also up to the referee to take into consideration whether or not the player being hit put himself in a vulnerable position just before or just as contact was made. Rather than dishing out major penalties for headshots, refs will now hand out minors where they see fit.

As for Rule 41 – boarding will now be called anytime a player “checks or pushes a defenseless player” in a way that makes him collide dangerously with the boards. So, the onus is on the player laying the hit to avoid or minimize contact in these situations.

Once again though, if a player turns right before contact is made, the referee can decide not to call a penalty.

Both of those changes seem pretty easy to follow, right? I thought so too, until I saw what scenarios the league decided to go with to explain them!

For example: Matt Cooke makes his yearly appearance on the “illegal” side of things for this hit on Evander Kane, even though Kane is clearly not helping his cause by reaching for the puck:


It looks to me like if Kane wasn’t stretched out, the principal point of contact wouldn’t be the head on this one. Cooke probably would have found a way to make it the principal point of contact anyway, but still!

For the most part, I can see the subtleties of each example and the point they’re trying to make, but the fact that they have to make their point by showing you each hit in super slow motion lets me know that it’s going to be a long season of indecision.

Hey Brendan, it’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it!

What do you think: Has the NHL done enough ahead of this season to get rid of the league’s headshot problem?

Monday, September 19, 2011

15 Minutes of Fame

Happy Monday!

This week on 15 Minutes of Fame: The Esks spank the Ti-Cats, we discuss a report that says college athletes should be paid, Drew Doughty is a no-show at Kings camp, Buffalo’s Tyler Myers cashes in, an early look at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the NHL launches a social media policy.

In the GABBYs: Marc Savard, the Edmonton Capitals, Novak Djokovic, baseball injuries, Dustin Byfuglien, Adam Dunn…and this week’s Punchline is Ron Jaworski!


See something you think should be a GABBY? You can get a hold of us on Twitter @15MinutesYEG, “Like” us on Facebook or shoot us an email at 15MinutesYEG@gmail.com!

For last week's episode, click here. Thanks for watching!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Random Friday Thoughts: NFL Week Two, MJ Commercial, Cyndi Spangled Banner

NFL Week Two

After a long lockout, a lot of questions were answered during the first week of the NFL season, but many remain as we head into week two!

The opening week saw some heroic performances, both expected and unexpected, some big surprises and of course some big flops…but what will a new week bring us?

Probably the marquee game for a lot of football fans will be on Sunday night when the Philadelphia Eagles face the Atlanta Falcons in Michael Vick’s first game back in the ATL since resuming his NFL career. It’ll be interesting for the obvious reasons, but also because everyone is watching Vick very closely again this season to see if he can match what he did in 2010. So far, so good.

Philly’s old pivot didn’t fare so well in his first game under centre for the Minnesota Vikings – Donovan McNabb will probably have to throw for more than 39 yards if his new team is to avoid going 2-0 to start the year. If he doesn’t have a big game soon, people might start to wonder if he’s past his best before date.

The other big questions at quarterback are Cam Newton and Tom Brady – can Newton follow up a massive first career game with a win over a strong Packers team? As for Brady, his 517 passing yards set a team record in a week one win…can he outshine Philip Rivers in week two?

I suppose the other thing to watch closely will be the Kerry Collins experiment in Indianapolis. How long before the Colts are calling up Brett Favre?

Lord of the Rings?

Following up a stellar performance in Space Jam, NBA legend Michael Jordan absolutely kills it in a recent commercial for NBA 2K12:


Look at the size of those rings! Hopefully he doesn’t have to sell any of them to help pay his $100,000 fine!

Star Spangled Blunder

Have you ever wondered why we bother with the national anthems before sporting events over here in North America?

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a tradition we’ve continued for this long because every now and then somebody messes up and we all get to have a good laugh about it!

This week’s anthem flub comes to us from the mouth of Cyndi Lauper (at about the 33 second mark):


As our flag was still streaming? Not quite!

Other stuff…

The NCAA continues its quest to suck all emotion out of college football…this week’s victim: The University of Oregon.

Wayne Gretzky takes “Trick Shot” viral videos to the next level!

Manchester City’s Wayne Bridge is the closest thing the English Premier League has to a pro baseball player…

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

C is for Captain

It’s one of the greatest honors you can be given in a team sport, and two more NHL players are now part of that club.

The NY Rangers announced on Monday that 26-year-old winger Ryan Callahan will wear the “C” this season, becoming the 26th player in team history to hold that honor. Last Friday, the St. Louis Blues named power forward David Backes the franchise’s 22nd captain since 1967.

Callahan and Backes join a pretty solid list of players who have captained either the Rangers or Blues, from Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky, to Brian Leetch and Al MacInnis. With that extra bit of fabric on your shirt comes a lot of responsibility in the dressing room and on the ice, but I’m sure both players are up to the challenge - it’s not something that coaches give out just for the sake of having a captain.

Just ask the NJ Devils, the Buffalo Sabres, the Florida Panthers and the Colorado Avalanche.

They’re among the six teams without a captain at this point, but no one seems to be in any hurry to change that. The Devils traded Jamie Langenbrunner away in January, while the Sabres and Panthers have been without a captain since trading away Craig Rivet and Bryan McCabe at the deadline. For Colorado, the captaincy became vacant with the April retirement of Adam Foote.

So, who should rock the “C” in those cities?

It’s a tough one in New Jersey, but I’d give it to Zach Parise. He’s been brought up in that Devils organization around some great leaders and I think it’s his time to shine in that respect. He spent most of last season on the sidelines with a knee injury, so you know he’s itching to get back onto the ice and back to what he was doing in previous years.

In Buffalo, it’s between Derek Roy and Jason Pominville for me, two younger veterans who have spent their entire careers so far with the club. I would imagine that both players are leaders in that locker room and I just get the vibe from watching Roy that he’s the natural choice there. To be honest, I’m a bit surprised they haven’t named Ryan Miller the captain though, like they did with Roberto Luongo in Vancouver.

Up next: The Florida Panthers. This is an easy one – there’s no question that Ed Jovanovski should be the captain of this team. He’s a lead-by-example, hard-nosed player who has done a lot and seen a lot over his 15 seasons in the show. Case closed.

They’re going through a real youth movement in Colorado, with guys like Matt Duchene garnering a lot of the attention, but Milan Hejduk’s name comes to mind for me when it comes to potential new captains. The “C” went from Joe Sakic to Adam Foote, and it only seems natural that it now land on the chest of Hejduk so that he can one day pass it along to a guy like Duchene.

Now, not every team that doesn’t have a captain is a holdout like these four: For the Islanders, they don’t have one because Doug Weight retired this summer. It’s a bit different for the Flyers – they need to fill the void after trading Mike Richards away to make room for Ilya Bryzgalov.

Love him or hate him, I’d give the “C” to Chris Pronger in Philly because not many players make a clear impact on a team like Pronger does. When it comes to the Islanders, I think they should rotate the captaincy in order to see who wears it best.

Between guys like John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Matt Moulson, to name a few, they’ve got a solid core of guys who are probably the heart and soul of that locker room. I’m not a huge fan of rotating the “C,” but I think this is a situation where it works.

What do you think: Who is the greatest captain of all time?

Monday, September 12, 2011

15 Minutes of Fame

Happy Monday!

It’s officially been one year since we kicked off this project, and our 52nd episode might just be the most jam-packed of them all! This week on the show we’re looking at the Extremes of the Edmonton Eskimos, the latest tragedy to rock the hockey community, claims that there is a drug problem in the NHL and some interesting comments from Alex Ovechkin on his health and the team’s attitude.

Also, for the first time, we’ve got an in-studio guest talking a little Mixed Martial Arts. In the GABBYs: Dustin McGowan, Justin Verlander, FC Edmonton, Peyton Manning, soccer hooligans, Manny Pacquiao & more!


See something you think should be a GABBY? You can get a hold of us on Twitter @15MinutesYEG, “Like” us on Facebook or shoot us an email at 15MinutesYEG@gmail.com!

For last week's episode, click here. Thanks for watching!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Random Friday Thoughts: NFL’s Return, Pacquiao Promotions, Worst PK Ever

Welcome Back NFL!

Ten touchdowns, 876 yards of total offence and a goal line stand in the final seconds.

What a start to the 2011 NFL season…and to think, we almost missed out on it because of a silly little contract dispute! If you missed Thursday night’s opener between the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints, a 42-34 win for the reigning Super Bowl champs, I hope you at least saw the highlights.

There were four touchdowns in the first quarter alone, a punt returned 72 yards for a touchdown in the second, a 108-yard kickoff return for a TD in the third and on a night of all-out offence, it came down to a huge defensive play to close it out right at the end.

What a game!

There are over 500 games left in the NFL season – will any of them be better than this one?

Pacqueoke

When it comes to boxing, Manny Pacquiao is pretty much in a league of his own.

When it comes to promoting upcoming fights…Pacquiao is on a completely different planet! The Filipino congressman is taking some interesting steps as he begins hyping up his November 12th fight with Juan Manuel Marquez.

We all know that Manny Pacquiao likes to sing…but at a pre-fight news conference?!


I bet Nick Diaz is glad he’s not fighting him!

Worst PK Ever?

I’ve seen some poorly taken penalty kicks in my day, but this may very well be the worst one ever.

This PK attempt by Al Ahly’s Amir Sayoud was so bad that not only did he fail to score, he ended up flat on his face and got a yellow card in the process!


Thankfully for Sayoud, his team won 4-0 so it was no big deal…just incredibly embarrassing!

Other stuff…

Bullpen shines as Tim Wakefield records his 200th win…oops, that should read: “Bullpen blows it, as Tim Wakefield remains at 199.”

Is anyone else getting a little worried about Dwight Howard?

Pablo Sandoval talks his bat into hitting him a couple of homers this week!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Does the NHL Have Issues?

Are headshots and concussions the biggest issues facing the NHL right now?

Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby met with the media on Wednesday to update his battle with post-concussion symptoms, and pulled no punches when asked if he thinks the expanded Rule 48 goes far enough in the fight against headshots.

Under the new rule, most hits to the head will now result in a minor penalty. The 24-year-old Crosby, who hasn’t played since early January, says though that there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be an all-out ban on headshots in the NHL.

I bet Marc Savard, David Perron and countless others would agree with him there (though Scott Stevens might not), but is player safety as it pertains to headshots and concussions really the biggest problem facing the league right now?

Maybe not.

There were two articles that caught my eye this week, both hinting at a much bigger problem within the ranks of the NHL.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michael Russo recently spoke with Ryan Boogaard about the life and death of his brother Derek, who spent five years with the Minnesota Wild before moving on to the NY Rangers.

It turns out that Boogaard struggled with an addiction to painkillers and was in and out of rehab twice between 2009 and his death in May of this year, which was caused by an accidental overdose of alcohol and Oxycodone. His other brother is accused of giving him the drugs that day, but Russo says some players have also admitted to sharing prescription drugs like Percocet with teammates as well.

Ryan Boogaard says in the article that there is “a lot of prescription pill drug abuse in the NHL.”

Former Philadelphia Flyers tough guy Riley Cote lends some credibility to that statement in an interview with Men's Health from earlier this month, entitled “The NHL’s Worst Summer Ever.”

The Adirondack Phantoms assistant coach, who recently retired from the NHL after four seasons, says the life of a hockey enforcer is a struggle, both mentally and physically. For the physical pain, there are pills, which Cote says also end up masking the emotional pain.

He says teams don’t push drugs on players, but it’s easy enough to get them if you want them.

“A lot of these guys are getting them from the black market, not from their doctors. Of course, doctors are over-prescribing them, too. You hear about it all the time – somebody injures a hand and winds up with a prescription for 30 Percocet and two refills.”

Cote says he thinks drugs like Oxycodone should be banned from pro sports, because “those things are designed for emergency cases,” adding that he knows people who are addicted to them and they are “bad news.” At the very least, he says the NHL should closely monitor what trainers have in their stock and if pills go missing, somebody should be in trouble.

Does the NHL have a drug problem?

It’s probably no worse in hockey than it is in any of the other major pro sports, but that doesn’t mean the league shouldn’t give this the same treatment as its battle to reduce concussions.

If we learn anything from the tragic deaths that have rocked the NHL community this summer, it should be that looking out for the mental health of players is just as important as making sure they’re safe on the ice.

What do you think: Should the NHL look into reports of prescription pill drug abuse, or is it probably just a few isolated problems?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

‘Serious’ Ovie Promises Better

Alex Ovechkin is making two things clear this week – he’s not fat and he’s sick of losing in the playoffs.

After looking like a mere mortal last season with 32 goals and 85 points in 79 games, Ovechkin is switching equipment companies, he’s been working with a different personal trainer (again) and he’s promising that his Capitals will be more “serious” this season.

The Caps superstar was at the team’s training facility on Tuesday to announce his new endorsement deal with Nike/Bauer after several years with CCM, but no one really wanted to talk equipment.

The line of questioning quickly went from his gear to his gut, and Ovie was forced to explain why he looked a bit chubby in a late-July interview. Incase you missed it, there was a “Caps 365” video posted to the NHL website earlier this summer that featured a chat with Ovechkin, wherein he appeared to be sporting a bit of a Party Bulge in his midsection.

Here’s what he had to say on Tuesday about that:

“I think it’s a bad video camera situation. That photo, it was kind of strange. When I get back home my friends start just killing me, saying, ‘Hey, did you see that? Did you see that?’ I said ‘What happened? What happened?’ They said ‘You look kind of fat.”

While Ovie was assuring reporters that it was nothing more than an optical illusion and his body is “perfect” at the moment, Caps owner Ted Leonsis had some interesting comments about his captain’s fitness during the 2009-10 season.

Remember when we all thought that Ovechkin’s numbers were down because he had bought in to a defence-first brand of hockey that was going to take his team to the promised land?

According to Leonsis, here’s what actually happened: Ovie “tried something different” last season and it didn’t quite work. His plan was apparently to work his way into shape throughout the year so that he’d be peaking during the playoffs. It doesn’t sound like the brightest idea, and it didn’t turn out to be – Ovechkin registered his lowest point total in six seasons (though he was still over a point per game) and the Caps crashed out in the second round of the playoffs.

That brings us to the other interesting comments made by the captain on Tuesday.

Former Caps winger Matt Bradley made headlines this summer when he said that some guys “didn’t show up” and the team was “a little bit too nonchalant” in the playoffs last year, statements that were backed up by another former Capital in the following weeks.

Well, Ovechkin all but agreed with those comments himself when asked about the postseason disappointment:

“It doesn’t matter what position you are – if you’re first or second or eighth, you have to be ready for everything because you can see when we go to the playoffs and we play against Tampa, sometimes we felt like, ‘OK, now it’s gonna be easy for us to beat them.’ It was not that kind of series. Everything can happen, but seriousness means serious every 60 minutes and every game.”

So, it doesn’t sound like Bradley was too far off in his assessment of the Caps locker room, but how much will that change this season? Ovechkin is a top-notch competitor and you know he’s going to be hungry for a big season after a sub-par year (by his standards) in 2009-10.

The challenge for him will be getting Alex Semin, Nick Backstrom and Mike Green to match his intensity for 82+ games.

What do you think: Will Alex Ovechkin win a Stanley Cup with the Capitals?

Monday, September 5, 2011

15 Minutes of Fame

Happy Monday!

In order to get you back on track after what was hopefully a lovely long weekend, the boys from 15 Minutes of Fame cut theirs short to get another action-packed episode ready to go for you!

This week on the big show: Another NHL enforcer turns up dead, the Bruins say Marc Savard’s career may be over, the results of our 15MOF Facebook poll on concussions and a couple of other strange stories from around the rinks.

In the GABBYs: Odds On Promotions, Arsenal refunds, the Tulsa Shock, Sogelau Tuvalu, Dustin Byfuglien and Gross Cycling Injuries!


See something you think should be a GABBY? You can get a hold of us on Twitter @15MinutesYEG, “Like” us on Facebook or shoot us an email at 15MinutesYEG@gmail.com!

For last week's episode, click here. Thanks for watching!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Random Friday Thoughts: Slow Sprint, Drogba Concussion, Howard Giraffe

Slow Sprint

Have you been keeping up with the IAAF World Championships in South Korea?

Let me get you up to date so far: Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt was disqualified in the 100m, double-amputee Oscar Pistorius helped get the South African team to the 4x100 final but was then replaced…and American Samoa’s Sogelau Tuvalu showed us that slow and steady doesn’t always win the race!

The 17-year-old failed to qualify for the shot put, his event of choice, and somehow ended up in a preliminary heat for the 100m instead.

He didn’t have the right shoes or anything, but Tuvalu channeled his inner Trevor “The Tortoise” Misipeka and gave it all he had. By the time the first of his competitors crossed the finish line, you couldn’t even see Tuvalu on the screen anymore. To his credit, he didn’t do any of the things I would worry about if I were in his position – he didn’t false start, he didn’t fall and he didn’t hurt himself!

He also set a personal best of 15.66, which was almost a full five seconds off the pace. Here he is, in all his glory:


I wonder how he would have fared in the long jump!

Drogba Dropped

There is a lot of concussion talk in the hockey world at the moment, with guys like Sidney Crosby and Marc Savard really highlighting the dangers of the injury.

It’s not just a hockey thing though – did you see what happened in the English Premier League last week?

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba went up for a header in a game against Norwich City and collided with goalie John Ruddy, and what happened next is just plain scary. Drogba was knocked out cold by the contact and his limp body then slammed face-first into the grass.


Some reports had Drogba unconscious for almost half an hour, with others saying it was just “several minutes.”

Either way, Reuters Africa reports that he is suffering from a concussion and will not suit up for the Ivory Coast in this weekend’s African Nations Cup qualifier in Rwanda.

Dunks-R-Us

If you’re looking for a sign that the NBA lockout just needs to end, here it is - Dwight Howard dunking on a stuffed giraffe in Japan:


I don’t get it…

Other stuff…

Chad Ochocinco is sleeping sleeping with the fishes

The Wall Street Journal asks: can you Name That Grunt?

A famous retired boxer is admitting to some strange things…

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Troubling Times in the NHL

The passing of Wade Belak on Wednesday in Toronto sent an all-too-familiar shockwave through the hockey community.

Indeed, 2011 has been a challenging year for the NHL.

It all started on January 1st, when Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby fell victim to a blindside hit during the Winter Classic. He played part of his team’s next game, but hasn’t played since. It’s now eight months later and he still hasn’t been able to shake his concussion symptoms.

A few weeks after the hit on Crosby, Marc Savard suffered another concussion. The Boston Bruins playmaker became the face of a growing problem in the NHL when he was blindsided by Penguins forward Matt Cooke in March of 2010. He didn’t play again until December of that year, and after this latest concussion, it doesn’t look like he’ll ever play again.

Things took a much darker turn a few months later in May when NY Rangers tough guy Derek Boogaard, who had missed most of the season with a concussion, was found dead in his apartment. It was later determined that he died of an accidental overdose of painkillers and alcohol.

August was another tough month for the league – Winnipeg Jets forward Rick Rypien lost a long battle with depression on August 15th when his body was found at his Alberta home. He had signed with the Jets on the second day of free agency, after several years in the Canucks organization.

That brings us to Wade Belak – the hockey community was stunned to learn of his passing on Wednesday, a few days after he had arrived in Toronto to start training for the upcoming season of CBC’s “Battle of the Blades.” The 35-year-old retired from pro hockey in March, ending a 15-year career, but was about to start a new career as a color commentator on Nashville Predators radio broadcasts.

Three deaths in four months, all enforcer-type guys who built a career on playing a tough brand of hockey and probably absorbed their fair share of brain trauma along the way. It’s a scary thought.

On top of that, Crosby and Savard aren’t the only players who are having a tough time dealing with serious concussions. Blues forward David Perron has been out since November with a concussion and still isn’t healthy, while veterans Paul Kariya and Dave Scatchard were both told this year by doctors that their careers were because of serious concussions.

Are all of these things just a big coincidence, or are we looking at a number of signs that something has to change?

It’s hard for me to chalk it all up to coincidence – players have been taking liberties with each other when it comes to those blindside hits for a while now, despite the warnings. Let’s be honest - the league shouldn’t have to send a video out to each team to let them know that hitting an unsuspecting opponent in the head with your full force is a bad thing.

Then again, instead of sending a video, the league should have sent a message when they had the chance, over and over again. People can talk all they want about the lack of respect among players in the league, but the league itself isn’t helping matters by failing to punish guys for malicious hits.

The NHL has a responsibility to look out for its players, and the power to shape behavior through disciplinary measures if it so chooses. If bringing in Rule 48 didn’t create enough change in the game though, is it time to consider something more extreme?

Would a moratorium on fighting be a wise idea?

Some players would wind up losing their jobs, but it might just be the direction the game needs to move in. I’m in the middle when it comes to that idea, because while I think that fighting is very much a part of hockey, I know the game can easily survive without it.

For example: could you go a full season without seeing two heavyweights who only play a few minutes per game square off in a meaningless fight that they probably both agreed to before the puck was dropped? I bet you could.

Maybe there would be fewer headshots (and therefore, fewer concussions) if everyone was forced to wear Brendan Shanahan's shoulder pads. That would make some players think twice about trying to rip a guy’s head off.

What do you think: Should the NHL take extreme measures this season to ensure player safety, or should they just hang on and hope for the best?