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Archive for the ‘NHL’ Category

Every Brawl is a Dumb Brawl

In MLB, NHL on April 13, 2013 at 5:14 pm

By Kevin Wolfman

At the risk of saturating this blog with excess coverage on one specific, ultimately minor, sporting event, allow me to follow up on Jonathan Danielson and Chris Hallenbrook’s coverage of the Padres-Dodgers brawl. Hallenbrook writes that this was “the dumbest brawl in years.” I’d like to take this (correct) assertion one step further: Every brawl is a dumb brawl.

Okay, except this one.

Okay, except this one.

Defenders of baseball’s bench-clearing, fighting sub-culture claim that these shenanigans are just “part of the game,” as inextricably tied to the national pastime as peanuts, crackerjack, and old, wrinkly managers wearing player uniforms for some unfathomable reason. Hitters who get beaned with pitches must “stand up for themselves.” Catchers who get run over at home plate must “defend their territory.” Managers who spit in umpires’ faces are “standing up for their boys.”

Here’s what they’re all really doing: making idiots of themselves.

No, fighting and brawling are not “part of the game.” They are distractions from the game. They turn what is supposed to be an athletic competition based on tremendous skill, cohesion, and discipline into Friday night at the local nightclub. They lose teams lots of money, lose players lots of dignity, and reduce a great game to a pathetic testosterone-soaked spectacle of immaturity. If fighting and brawling were “part of the game,” they would be in the same part of the rulebook as hitting, fielding, pitching, catching, and baserunning. They’re not. Case closed.

But what about “tradition,” you say? How about just let go of your lame traditions already? “Tradition” has always been, and always will be, the last gasping defense of someone who’s wrong. Stupid, hateful things aren’t acceptable just because they’ve been around a long time.

To answer Jonathan’s question from Friday: Yes, the Dodgers should be allowed to sue Carlos Quentin for damages. He injured Zach Greinke, their $147 million investment, by charging him in a threatening manner (assault) and knocking him to the ground, breaking his collarbone (battery). If something like that had occurred on the diamond in a public park, Quentin might possibly be on the hook for criminal charges, let alone civil ones. But since he did it on television while wearing a professional uniform, that makes it okay? No, that makes it worse. Obviously.

Fighting/brawling doesn’t score runs. It doesn’t get players on base. It has no productive function at all when it comes to the objectives of baseball. All it does it make grown men look like petulant, overgrown, tobacco-chewing toddlers in tight pants. Come to think of it, if actual toddlers fought each other like this while playing tee-ball, we’d put them on timeout and confiscate their toys. So let’s start holding our professionals to the same standard we apply to tykes who quite literally don’t know any better. If Carlos Quentin and his MLB brethren want to act like children, we should treat them like the brats they are.

And yes, this applies to every other sport, too. Don’t even start on hockey.

Pictured: Not winning the Stanley Cup.

Pictured: Not winning the Stanley Cup.

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The Penguins Are Trolling the NHL

In Media, NHL on March 29, 2013 at 6:15 am

by Chris Carosi

Last night I was at the bar, enjoying myself, trying not to be awkward, talking about Doctor Who or something when I looked up at the television above the bar and saw that the Penguins had traded for Calgary forward Jarome Iginla. I convened with my one friend in the Bay Area that loves hockey and he said, being more informed than I, “I just read Boston got him.”

After a few hasty iPhone searches, we saw the truth. No, the Penguins swept him, seemingly at the last possible second.

I went home and checked it out. The entire Internet was trolled by the Penguins. Everyone including reputable sources like TSN (that’s Canadian ESPN) were saying the Boston Bruins had landed Iginla. This was going until an enormous sigh swept over the Internet, like a long breeze sweeping the Cheetos crumbs from underneath the servers around the globe: “Oh shit. Sorry everyone. Iginla is going to Pittsburgh.”

TSN’s venerable Bob McKenzie apologizing to the Internet

What’s even stranger (or awesome depending on your POV) is that the reason why Iginla came to Pittsburgh is that he chose to. He has a no trade clause which means he can waive it to play for a contending team. That’s why he didn’t go to Boston. He didn’t want to. And the Pens only gave up two mediocre prospects and a first-round pick for him.

Add to that the Penguins addition of the other big name grizzled veteran on the market (Brenden Morrow from Dallas) and the best big defenseman on the board (Douglas Murray from San jose) and you have an ungodly stacked roster of dudes that want to win a cup. The current NHL leading scorer Sidney Crosby is playing spectacularly and the team is in the midst of a 13-game winning streak (longer than the Blackhawks 11-game winning streak this season–their 25-game streak was a points streak, not wins). And, oh yeah, the reigning league MVP Evgeni Malkin hasn’t played since March 9th. The Pens haven’t lost in March yet.

Douglas Murray: Swedish Troll.

The Pens have trolled the entire league before the league can blink an eye. They have usurped control of the Eastern conference with skill, front office suave, and haven’t even spent any money or traded anybody.

Iginla has a huge cap hit so he will be gone after the offseason probably. This is what a team who wants a Cup looks like. They are determined to put fixes in place to win now. The trolls can have class.

NHL Mid-Season Report

In NHL on March 11, 2013 at 8:54 am

by Chris Carosi

With a shortened season due to the lockout, the NHL has already arrived at its mid-season. The good news is that this quickened season has meant fantastic hockey and close races (especially in the Northeast, but we’ll get to that later) because every game really matters. It also means a very, very interesting trade deadline date looming in April, which might provide some teams with the added juice to get to the Cup.

Calgary forward Jarome Iginla is just one of many high-profile players in demand at the deadline this year.

Fewer games means that each point is more important and the teams vying for those last few spots are battling like never before. Seriously it’s great. Makes the NBA look like a kitten fight. Let’s take a look at the each of the six divisions, who will win and who is the dark horse in the Stanley Cup playoff race.

Atlantic Division

Current leader: Pittsburgh Penguins (18-8-0, 36 points)

Who will win the division: Pittsburgh

The dark horse: New York Islanders

Even though Pittsburgh has been solid for years now, they’ve only won the Atlantic once since Sidney Crosby was drafted in 2005. They are heavy favorites because they are just a beast on offense with no sign of stopping. They look to lead the league in goals for the second straight year. In fact, in their last 5 games, they’ve allowed 18 goals. They are 5-0 in those games. But if they want to get back to the Finals, the defense has to be solved. Age and a significant failure to keep opponents out of the crease has led to too many goals allowed. Their goaltenders haven’t been able to save games in that span either.

The Islanders have the young talent and speed to score a lot of goals too. Their weakness has also been on defense, where they allow well over 3 and a quarter goals per game. They have plenty of young leadership with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo among others, so they’ll end up leaning on those skaters to keep scoring. The shortened season favors them to climb the standings over the old and injured New Jersey Devils and the nose-diving Flyers. They play better on the road, which is typical of a young squad, and would help them in the playoffs. Now if they can just get rid of that atrocious alternate black jersey. Side note: they’re playing in Brooklyn starting next year. Hova!

“Nice work, boys. Oh no, look at us in the jumbo-tron. Jesus.”

Northeast Division

Current leader: Montreal Canadiens (17-5-4, 38 points)

Who will win the division: Boston Bruins

The dark horse: Toronto Maple Leafs

The Northeast is very, very competitive this year, which came as a surprise. They could easily qualify four out of the five teams into the playoffs if things stay as they are right now and right now things are cray-cray. With the exception of Buffalo, who are just awful before and after firing longtime Coach Lindy Ruff, the rest of the Northeast continues to play exciting hockey.

“I know I look like an inflated Rutger Hauer. Doesn’t win hockey games.”

Bruins/Canadiens battling it out for the division title is good for the game, but I think the Bruins’ superior defense and experience will give them the edge by the end of the year. They’re just a little better than the Habs, and that’s saying a lot. Michel Therrien has turned the Habs into a balanced, tough, and tenacious group overnight, and they will certainly make life miserable for whomever they face in the playoffs. Boston has only lost 3 games in regulation so far this year, and they are as solid as they’ve ever been.

Toronto are the new kids on the block, and after so many years of re-building, seem to be clicking as a group. They have a great group of fast forwards with the likes of Mikhail Grabovski, Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, and Nazem Kadri. Goaltending has been okay, and will have to be better to advance in the playoffs. If they can steal some games on the road in the first round, they might get lucky and draw a team with a weak defense like Pittsburgh in the second round. You never know.

Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf and his strange combo of mean face + dweeb hair.

Southeast Division

Current leader: Carolina Hurricanes (14-9-1, 29 points)

Who will win the division: Carolina Hurricanes

The dark horse: Winnipeg Jets

The Southeast is as flimsy as its ever been in this abbreviated year, with the strong possibility of only qualifying one team into the playoffs, their division winner. Carolina is not a very good team, especially when compared to their peers in the Eastern Conference, but their history is based on either raising or lowering expectations in an extreme way, and then performing in a manner opposite those expectations. This year, they brought in Alex Semin and Jordan Staal to bolster their offense and power play unit, which dwindles at the bottom of the league. The Canes are leaning on their goaltender, Cam Ward, more than ever.

Winnipeg has put together a nice little spurt these last few weeks, winning 8 of their last 11 games. The Jets have had great production from their top forwards like Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, and especially Evander Kane, who has emerged as a quality scorer. Besides that, there isn’t much to look at. But the Jets have the advantage in their last year in this weak division. If they can beat up on teams like Tampa Bay, Washington, and Florida, they could steal their way up the standings and get a playoff spot.

In keeping with our theme: I present Evander Kane’s hair. It stands for, “Young Money Cash Money Billionaires”. Not joking.

Central Division

Current leader: Chicago Blackhawks (21-2-3, 45 points)

Who will win the division: Chicago

The dark horse: St. Louis Blues

This year is all about Chicago’s ridiculous run of 25 games without losing in regulation. That’s an insane accomplishment, and even rarer when you think about how much more defensive the game has become since the old days. While the Blackhawks have the number one seed locked up yesterday, the rest of the division is kind of the same story as its been for a while. The Red Wings are solid as ever and the Blues, in spite of themselves, are an explosive team on paper.

Why does Patrick Kane look like this when he skates? He is drunk all the time.

The Blues need to get their shit together. Their defense has been very poor this year. This is especially frustrating given their awesome one-two punch of goaltending in Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Both have been injured and/or awful. The good news is that they have a lot of variety at forward with eleven players in double-digit points. Injuries have not been kind to the Blues either with key man games missed in goal and forward, including rookie Vladimir Tarasenko. The future is always bright in St. Louis. They need to make believers out of themselves.

Northwest Division

Current leader: Minnesota Wild (13-9-2, 28 points)

Who will win the division: Vancouver Canucks

The dark horse: Colorado Avalanche

A very strange lackluster year so far for teams in the Northwest, as Vancouver has proven to be mortal and everyone else either too crappy or just too wet behind the ears. Although experience down the stretch will give the Canucks the edge, a team like Minnesota, all bound up with energy from their new leadership in Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, as well as rabid fans can get them what they very well deserve: their first playoff round win since 2003. The pressure is on.

There’s an outside chance that a team like Colorado could sneak in as they get healthier but yeah, I don’t know. The Northwest is a wasteland of hope and Roberto Luongo. It’s hard to imagine any other team but Vancouver doing anything extraordinary in the playoffs, but there’s a lot of hockey left. Colorado (the snappers of the Blackhawks aforementioned streak) has some jump very recently. We’ll see if they flake out.

There is no reason for why I dislike Roberto Luongo. It’s just fun I guess.

Pacific Division

Current leader: Anaheim Ducks (18-3-3, 39 points)

Who will win the division: Anaheim

The dark horse: San Jose Sharks

The other great team in the Western Conference are the Ducks, who have been destroying teams all year long. They have the league’s best power play unit (popping at over 25%), one of the most prolific scoring offenses, and a quality young goaltender in Viktor Fasth. They are vulnerable killing penalties, where they are at the bottom of the league, but these Ducks know how to win in their division and are really the sexy pick to advance far into the playoffs given the hype now surrounding Chicago.

Thing you know but always forget: Teemu Selanne is 42 and faster than you will ever be.

Don’t know much about the Sharks, which is weird because I live in the Bay Area and actually saw them skate at the HP Pavillion once. Anyway, here’s a picture of the Cow Palace where they used to play in the 90’s. Here’s to another awesome battle to the end!

Dude. Best hockey venue of all time.

Alex Ovechkin as the Scapegoat of Hype

In NHL on February 19, 2013 at 4:57 pm

By Chris Carosi

NHL players just aren’t the same type of athlete found in other North American sports. There’s less personality, less “good” sound bites. Hell, if a player is mopey or even remotely upset after a game, the opponent team’s media automatically rips them for being “soft” or “emotional.” This is old school. At it’s best, the lack of personality or controversial sound bites after a game makes the game that much more refreshing to me, because the players just play and that’s it. It’s kind of nice.

The NHL is pretty conservative as a rule, and so is the approach of these athletes in terms of their own personality. The vast majority of these guys really do buy into team sports in a real way. It’s no surprise that ESPN has no interest in the NHL (and vice-versa): there’s no media heat coming off of it besides wins and loses.  There is little controversy, and very few, or any, players commit crimes. The NHL is the Fugazi of sports. Case in point: Alex Ovehckin’s passionate after-goal celebrations are seen as controversial by the powers that be. Yeah.

“One game at a time. Play as a team. Play our game. Blah bu-blah blah.”

For the sake of this article, you can think of Russian players in the NHL like a ballet version of the game, weaving between players and holding the puck trying to score on elaborate and beautiful individual efforts. Players like Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin, and Pavel Datsyuk are dazzling in their ability to control the puck and move fluidly by sheer will into the attacking zone, dangling the puck between defenders and breaking the ankles of goaltenders. Ovechkin and Kovalchuk are wingers, and rely almost entirely on their strength and ability to shoot in the offensive zone while Malkin and Datsyuk, as centermen, combine offensive and defensive skills in both zones, scoring as much as they set up plays.

So, given the nature of the “Crosby vs. Ovehckin” dynamic, why was Ovechkin chosen at all? Crosby, as a centerman, plays an entirely different position with different responsibilities and different wrinkles to his game (and more pressure as a leader). Ovechkin, shoved into the role as leader and “rival”, is all muscle and speed with no real defensive game.  His defensive game is basically delivering crushing body-checks.

It’s fair to say that Crosby was bred since he was a fetus to be a leader and superstar, as weird as that sounds. It’s true. Ovechkin, with his abilities on paper (skate, shoot, hit, repeat), seems like an unlikely foil. He’s a winger: much easier to defend especially with all the hype.

Despite this article, this picture is awesome.

The comparison makes about as much sense  as Rocky Balboa vs. Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. And by that I mean it only makes sense in Reagan-era terms: big, powerful, tank meets modestly sized hometown pride and hometown pride wins. Seriously, wasn’t Drago in a different weight class than Rocky? Cocaine is a hell of a drug. This is my point: it’s not that Ovechkin is worse or better than Crosby, it’s that they are in different weight classes, different stratospheres, of the game.

And unlike Crosby, surrounded year after year with quality supporting players and goaltending, Ovechkin has a clueless front office to deal with. The Capitals, who have never passed beyond the second-round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Ovechkin era, have been managed like a twelve-year-old playing NHL ’96. Instead of pushing talent toward the middle of the ice and stacking up defensively, they’ve created an offense with a one-note winger as its lead, with mediocre to decent players backing him up. And no consistency in goal. Ovechkin’s massive contract might put pressure on the front office to make hard decisions, and I won’t go as far as saying that he didn’t deserve it way back when. It’s something to think about.

“Let’s have a fair fight, gentlemen…um, given the seventy-five pound disadvantage.”

Washington’s attempts to bring the team back to basics with the hiring of defense-first Dale Hunter last year found Ovechkin feeling frustrated (despite still putting up 30+ goals) and the team floundering again: losing in the second-round of the playoffs to the Rangers. This year, new coach Adam Oates (himself once a very solid centermen) has a seemingly tissue paper squad, and an even more lost Ovechkin sharing a line with new linemates instead of setup man Nicklas Backstrom. So now, as the Caps wane into the background considerably, the media turns on Ovechkin, the unlucky leader of a damaged brand.

Caps owner Ted Leonsis. Just for Men equals hockey.

Ovechkin was never meant to lead. That was never his game. He plays hard and his talent in the offensive zone is truly one-of-a-kind. His shot is lethal and impossibly hard, like John Elway’s arm with the added torque of a composite propeller. His speed and power between areas on the ice (especially considering his size) is unmatched. His ability to use retreating defenders as screens while entering the zone is a brilliant innovation and shows his natural and superhuman ability to pick his shot. His game is not puck management or rallying cries. He’s not a noted passer or point man. He doesn’t have the patience or vision to set up an elaborate play.

The media’s recent turn on him is leftover from a forced attempt to make the NHL relevant again. For a designated leader in a non-leader role, Ovechkin is taking a lot of blows for the incompetence demonstrated by his franchise and the league. The media’s disassembling of his superstar status will only help him in the long run. As expectations lower, perhaps the Caps can begin to surround him with complementary talent and move forward.

I Left My Teeth in El Segundo

In NHL on February 6, 2013 at 3:04 pm

By Chris Carosi

For being a traditionally cold weather (ahem, designed by Canadians) sport, ice hockey has actually been a tradition in California for a number of years now. Well before “Gretzky  Fever” in the late eighties/early nineties, the California Golden Seals were established in the hockey hungry breadbasket of Oakland, CA and the defending Cup champion Kings near the icy fjords of the mighty Los Angeles River.

In 1967, the NHL expanded to twelve franchises, doubling its number of the “Original Six” with some teams that are today just as synonymous with the imagery and mythology of the game: the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Minnesota (now Dallas) Stars, Los Angeles Kings, and the Seals. Those Seals later became the Cleveland Barons, and then eventually merged with Minnesota in the 70’s.

Visual proof that the 1970’s were better.

What those Seals could not do (fill seats, win games, or find confident ownership), the rest of the expanding hockey world could. The expansion of 1967–and the subsequent 1979 merger with the World Hockey Association (WHA), which brought in four more teams–created a steady gravitational pull of attention to the increasingly fast and fabulous professional game. Wayne Gretzky at the beginning of the 80’s and Mario Lemieux at the end bookended a fast, goal-a-minute era that seems ridiculous when compared to today’s game: the lack of padding on the goalies make the nets seem enormous and the players seem untouched as they gallop down the ice in a far less-obstructed manner.

“What is French for, ‘I do not look like an actual Penguin?'”

The NHL’s Pacific Division debuted in 1993, when the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim joined the Kings and Shark as the third California franchise. Outside of the ubiquitous Red Wings and the young, fast, and dominating Chicago Blackhawks, this division has really done well, winning four cups since the division was founded and three President’s Trophies. Here’s a cheers to the great unsung sports division: the NHL Pacific Division!

Los Angeles Kings

The Kings’ snatching of Wayne Gretzky in the summer of 1988 was a dramatic shift for the NHL’s center of gravity. For a league more subservient to its history and forefathers than most North American sports and a strange conservatism that still in the year 2013 isn’t comfortable with displays of charisma, this was a shift of epic proportions. The Kings’ subsequent Campbell Conference Championship and loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the 1993 season was the first foray of West Coast championship hockey.

After losing that Cup Final his rookie season, Luc Robitaille went on to become the highest-scoring left winger in league history and still holds most of the Kings’ scoring records. And after slowly and smartly building up their franchise with pristine young leadership with the likes of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick, the Kings positively destroyed the competition last year in a march to claim their first Stanley Cup.

Barry Melrose’s mullet coached the Kings to their first Stanley Cup Final in 1993.

San Jose Sharks

The NHL returned to the Bay Area when the San Jose Sharks broke ground at the Cow Palace (still a cowboy and rodeo venue in San Francisco) in 1990. The Sharks have been one of the great unsung stable franchises in pro sports, being heavily supported by a devoted (albeit very suburban) fan base for over two decades and attracting great players such as Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley to skate in the lovely and clean HP Pavillion. However, not unlike the McNabb-era Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL, the Sharks seem to play great hockey in the regular season and then stumble tragically in the playoffs. This year, they are off to a great start. Perhaps this shortened season will keep them focused enough to succeed in this year’s playoffs.

Sidebar: They serve brisket sandwiches at the Cow Palace at minor league hockey games. Not joking.

Anaheim Ducks

A franchise with the peculiar designation of being founded as a result of a Emilio Estevez vehicle, the Ducks have surprisingly remained one of the most successful franchises in the modern game, thanks to a (yes) devoted Orange County fanbase and an often brilliant balance of great draft picks (Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan) and ageless, talented veteran leadership (Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne). Debuting as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 1993, the Ducks wasted no time, making the playoffs in their third season, building a team around winger Paul Kariya, taking the hall-of-famer-packed roster of the New Jersey Devils to seven games in the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, and then winning the thing outright in a dismantling of the Ottawa Senators in 2007. While the Ducks have been steady recently, they haven’t exactly been dominant. There main forward lines are getting older (like, ancient) but have been competitive this year with new coach Bruce Boudreau.

Jean-Sebastian Giguere had the strange honor of winning the Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP) after losing game seven of the Stanley Cup Final in 2003.

Phoenix Coyotes

While not technically a West Coast team per se, the Coyotes are very much a part of the West Coast hockey conversation, although their main storyline is unfortunately their “will they or won’t they” game of relocation. The NHL has owned the Coyotes since 2009, and without a proper buyer, could very well be moved to Quebec City or some other ice chest in the fur-trapping wilderness of the Provinces. They began as the relocated Winnipeg Jets in the great franchise relocations of 1996, when two Canadian franchises moved west of the Rockies (the other being the Quebec City franchise, the Nordiques–confused yet?). It’s a damn good story that the Coyotes still have played scrappy, competitive hockey the last few seasons, led by unsung leader Shane Doan and skating against the Kings last year in their first Western Conference Final. Veteran leadership and scrappy-ness aside, these Coyotes (not unlike the actual animal they are named for) are a wondering spirit in the desert, and would likely excel better if laid in a nice firm base where they can be free.

A hockey player wearing a cowboy hat in full pads. Never thought of that, did you?

Dallas Stars

Though not a West Coast team, the Stars have been a great propagator of an expanded NHL in new markets since their founding all the way back in 1967 as the Minnesota Stars and move to Dallas in 1993. The Stars were the second franchise to ever win a Cup in a non-traditional American market (the first being the Colorado Avalanche). And being a frequent and beleaguered opponent to the teams mentioned above, this team is very much a part of the West Coast hockey conversation. They are re-branding their logos and uniforms next year, so look for that to be a resurgence for them.

The hockey world’s version of the Zapruder Film.

It’s A Dry Apathy

In MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL on January 25, 2013 at 1:17 pm

By Jonathan Danielson

The Arizona sports market is a notoriously fickled one. It’s a place built by transplants and Snowbirds, who, along with motorhomes and midwestern accents, bring hometown loyalties they don’t check at the border.

The four major professional sports teams in Phoenix.

Despite what some games might feel like, these are the actual home teams of Arizona.

Unlike long-established cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, or the Bay Area (whose residents, ironically enough, often relocate to Phoenix), the Valley of the Sun is relatively new to the professional sports scene. Except for their first franchise (the Suns, who were established in 1968), their next oldest team (the Cardinals) relocated from St. Louis in 1988. The Coyotes came from Winnipeg in 1996 (and seemingly tried to leave ever since), and the Diamondbacks were established in 1998. There are other franchises of course, like the Mercury or Rattlers, but no one really thinks about them when discussing the region’s major professional sports.

With three Championships, the Arizona Rattlers are the most sucessful franchise in the state. They currently play in the league, "Who Gives A Crap?"

With three championships, the Rattlers are the most successful franchise in the city’s history. They currently play in the “Who-Gives-A-Crap?” league.

With the youth of the Phoenix sports market, and the nature of its residents, Arizona teams don’t yet have the deep fan bases like those larger and previously mentioned upon markets. In Arizona, when times are good (like the Suns’ Dick Van Arsdale, Charles Barkley, and Steve Nash eras; the World Series Diamondbacks; the failed Super Bowl Cardinals; and the most recent Coyotes team), arenas and stadiums are often sold out and loud with hometown pride. When times go south though (the late 1980’s, early 2000’s, and current Suns teams; most years since the D-backs changed their colors; most of the Cardinals and Coyotes existence), the fan base divides itself in half (that’s a generous estimation), and while some continue rooting for the local teams, most put back on the jerseys and hats from their childhood.

Mill Avenue during the day.

Mill Avenue during the day.

It’s like a snake that eats its tail; the teams don’t win over fans by losing, less fans means less revenue to build potential winners, rinse and repeat.

Carrying on that fine tradition of ineptitude, close calls, woulda’s, shoulda’s, and ‘coulda’s, Valley sports have been in the news a lot lately, both locally and on the national stage. One team fired its coach, and after three weeks, managed to pull off the steal of the league when hiring its new one. Another team fired their coach and no one could figure out why, much less understand why they hired the guy they did to replace him. Another team traded the face of their franchise for a soon-to-be free agent, a high ERA pitcher and a bag of peanuts, while another team had their MVP give up more goals in two games (before getting hurt) than it seemed like he did all last year.

With all this said, it’s a frustrating, heartbreaking, infuriating, and above all else, interesting time for Arizona sports. Since next week is pretty much going to be all Super Bowl, all the time, I wanted to take a moment this Friday to take a brief look at my hometown teams, their current moves, and what this means for the foreseeable future of the franchises and the community.

So, with no further ado.

Phoenix Suns:

Dan Majerle is one of the most popular Suns of all time. He’s so popular in fact, he could probably kill someone right in the middle of United Airways Center, right during a nationally televised game, then be allowed to leave the arena completely unmolested, all while giving high fives to the police as he left.

"Don't tempt me!"

“Don’t tempt me!”

So when coach Alvin Gentry got canned earlier this week for no logical reason (a great coach with a team of limited talent can only go so far), you would think Majerle would finally be given the chance the team over, especially after devoting five years as an assistant, right? Or at least Elston Turner (the assistant coach with 16 years of experience) would be named the new man in charge?

Instead, the Suns made Lindsey Hunter, a former player with no coaching experience outside his son’s high school team, as the new head coach. It probably also helped that Hunter is best friends with Lance Blanks, the Suns’s General Manager.

Insert "Snowball in Hell Before Suns Win NBA Title Joke" here.

Insert “Snowball’s Chance in Hell Before Suns Win First NBA Title Joke” here.

This is just one tragic example of what the Phoenix Suns have become. They aren’t winning games, they aren’t selling seats, and the reason owner Robert Sarver doesn’t think fans are upset with the moves he’s making is because the city has grown so apathetic to the team’s current state that they don’t have the effort to care anymore. Fans are bunkering down and crossing their fingers that Shabazz Mohammed magically comes via the draft, and if not, hey Bruce Arians got hired by the Cardinals!

So what does this mean for the future of Phoenix’s first and most beloved Sun son?

Currently, former Suns legends and players are distancing themselves from the organization, as they seemingly do not want to be associated with their former team. Charles Barkley, who over the years has remained silent on his opinions of the Suns, has very recently and publicly expressed his disappointment in the franchise’s current direction. After losing Steve Nash last summer, the team has no face of the franchise, and more importantly, no go-to scorer, regardless if he has a face or not. Michael Beasley and a roster of scrappy, misfit role players have been sold to fans as the future. Local sports broadcasters are calling out the team’s mismanagement and dysfunction.

These Suns are no longer the Suns you grew up with. Remember the days when former players and legends once held roles in the front office, ceremonial or not, and made sure they kept strong connections with the fans? Even if times were tough, it was alright, because it was a family, and the whole Valley was in it together?

Now, Sarver and his current front office has cut ties with the past, and have seemingly run out everyone once associated with the team. Everyone from Dan Majerle as an assistant coach, to Cedric Ceballos as the In-Arena MC are now gone, and in their place are Blanks and Babby’s friends and former associates. It’s sort of like this: imagine you used to go over to a friend’s house everyday after school, and years later, after you’ve graduated and got married and had kids of your own, you drive by that house. Your friend’s parents have long ago sold it, and now a bunch of stoner college kids who don’t keep up with the yard and let the paint fade live there. It’s still the same house, on the outside, but what made it so great growing up is gone.

Arizona Diamondbacks

It seems like a long time since the 2011 NL West Championship season. Most of the faces from that team are long gone, traded away for prospects, middle relievers, and now a plethora of shortstops. Just yesterday, the team traded the once projected cornerstone of the franchise, Justin Upton, for a guy who will be a free agent next year, a pitcher with a high ERA, and a bunch of prospects who are projected to have limited potential.

What the D-backs have now is a team of scrappy, blue-collar role players. I would get excited about this, but this eerily sounds familiar. Like, down the street from Chase Field familiar (if you’re not getting this, see “Suns” above).

Current blue collar state of the team.

Current Diamondbacks roster.

Now baseball is an entirely different sport than basketball, I know that, and you can look to teams like the 2010 Giants as an example of a roster filled with scrappy role players who performed way above expectations. The difference though, is that Matt Cain and the 2010 version of Tim Lincecum was on that Giants team, and no matter how good Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Brandon McCarthy, Trevor Cahill, or Tyler Skaggs are, they aren’t Cain or 2010 Lincecum. And Wade Miley was just a rookie last year.

"Really? Bryce Harper?"

“Really? Bryce Harper?”

If Randall Delgado can get his ERA down, and Martin Prado signs a long-term extension, the Upton trade might not be the worst move in the world, even if it sort of feels like it right now. Prado is a great hitter, and all around great baseball player, and with the rise of Paul Goldshmidt, the team might very well easily forget Upton and all that “potential” they’ve been selling on him his entire career. In fact, the thing I’m most upset about with this trade is that I just got an Upton jersey this Christmas this year, and now what am I going to do with it? That’s supposed to be a joke, but seriously, what am I now going to do with this jersey?

Either way, this is a team of scrappers and hard workers, and it’s going to go one of two ways. They are either going to win big, or Kevin Towers will be gun slinging somewhere else.

Arizona Cardinals

After starting 4-and-0, the Arizona Cardinals tanked the rest of 2012, then fired their coach. What happened for the next three weeks was perceived by fans as a comedy (or tragedy) of errors. Ray Horton was going to be the coach unless Andy Reid was the coach, or Mike McCoy, and when they weren’t Horton was going to be the coach, and he was going to bring Norv Turner in as the offensive coordinator, that is unless it was Jay Gruden was going to be the coach, or Darrell Bevell, or Bruce Arians. Finally, when Arians was named to the position, Horton rightfully wanted out, and the team, in losing a defensive genius and replacing him with an offensive one, seemed to have cut of their nose to spite their face.

"How long until practice is over and I can tweet about the strip club?"

“How long until practice is over and I can tweet about the strip club?”

Then, Arians built his staff, fans started shutting up and believing, and now even Beanie Wells, who only a few short weeks earlier was saying how he was “auditioning for thirty-one other teams” when playing in the last game of the season, is excited. It seems the whole state of Arizona (minus the contingent who root for the 49ers. Or Bears. Or Packers. Or Steelers. Or…) is abuzz, and analysts are saying the Bidwills need to be promptly arrested on charges of robbery, what with how good a staff they built by taking them away from other teams.

Out is a player’s coach and easy locker room, and in is Arian’s authority and discipline.

Bruce Arians telling his offensive line his expectations.

Bruce Arians telling his offensive line his January expectations.

Unless the blue-collar D-backs over perform, or the Coyotes can again find the magic of last year, the future’s again bright for the Cardinals to be the preferred  team of the Valley, despite not having a clearly defined quarterback, huge holes on the offensive line, a lack of a running game, a rebuilding defense, having to play in the NFC West, and yada yada yada.

All of that doesn’t really matter to fans right now though, who are too excited about the possibilities Arians brings. It’s goodbye “In Whiz We Trust,” and hello “Arians Nation!”

…yeah, that’s not going to work. We’ll figure it out by training camp.

Phoenix (Arizona) Coyotes

This is the trickiest of all teams to assess. If last year can be a measuring stick for anything, the Coyotes are the closest thing to a future champion than any of the other teams combined. Unfortunately, unless potential owner Greg Jamison finally pushes through his purchase of the Yotes before the fast approaching deadline, the team might be celebrating that championship in another city, most likely somewhere in or near Canada.

Caption

This summarizes all of the “Are they moving, or aren’t they?” speculation.

The Coyotes are either here, or they aren’t, or they are, or they aren’t, and no matter how good they might be, a sport played on ice is already a tough sell in the desert, so uncertainty isn’t helping any. If Jamison can close this deal though, and ensure a future of the team in Glendale, and if the team continues to play like they did last year, Phoenix might well become a hockey town. In fact, they most likely will become a hockey town, and I don’t know about you, but I never thought I would ever write those words.

Revenge of the Hockey Blogs!

In NHL on January 8, 2013 at 4:14 pm

by Chris Carosi

A shortened hockey season of 50 or so games, with some changing faces due to the new cap and contract rules (no more 17-year contracts!), means a concise, fast-paced season rocketing toward a fun-filled playoffs with healthier (albeit beleaguered) players and (hopefully) re-ignited fan bases.

This also means an interesting race to the playoffs. Contrary to some predictions, the league is decidedly not expanding the playoffs. And from the looks of the Vegas odds, things could have started in October. We’ve missed the Winter Classic (damn) and the All-Star Break (thank god), but with a lot of the top players staying in good shape, things should pick right back up. Here’s the top five according to Vegas at a glance:

5. Philadelphia Flyers (12/1 odds).

The Flyers play like they’re a man down all the time, and while that means more annoyingly pointless and violent play from a collection of long-hairs, it also means they can mix and match mid to elite level forwards that buy into their system and win games. Solid goaltending is still a strange and mysterious creature to Philly, with the bizarre Ilya Bryzgalov starting and the inconsistent Michael Leighton backing him up, but if they can just shore up that defense, they will certainly contend again and try to make a run. Oh yeah and Jaromir Jagr has gone to Dallas. Darn.

“Yes, I have already placed my bet on your team to win all of Stanley Cup.”

4. Los Angeles Kings (12/1 odds)

A lot of lucky people made some dough off this bet last year, as the Kings did precisely what they set out to do: take advantage of a weakened Western Conference and usurp the Cup from under the nose of both the East Coast-biased media and the vast majority of American sports fans. While the Kings’ run was spectacular in its dominance (going on 3-0 runs for all four playoff rounds for the first time in league history), the extra long off-season has that Stanley Cup high in extended hibernation. It looks like Anze Kopitar will be out for 3 weeks with a bum knee, which doesn’t help either. The Kings will be ready to go though. Their defense and goaltending are way too awesome to let anyone down. Get the sun tan lotion out and drop the puck.

I have a bachelor pad on Malibu Beach!

3. Vancouver Canucks (9/1 odds)

The Canucks: the San Diego Chargers of the NHL. The hype machine that works up a constant spray of self-approval and mindless Luongo chanting is very, very easy to hate by anyone, even casual fans. Of course, from a hockey perspective, the Canucks will be poised as ever to earn another President’s Trophy.

Bobby Lu’s contract has a clause that states he only plays well at home.

2. New York Rangers (17/2 odds)

The Rangers shore up their ridiculous line-up with more ridiculousness by signing All-World power forward Rick Nash in the off-season. The Rangers, in spite of firepower and great goaltending, could not outscore the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. Longevity has always been a issue for this team, signing elite players while letting their solid draft picks go. For the sake of argument, this shortened season is just the kind of thing that works well for a team like the Rangers.

This is equivalent to a Dwight Howard to Lakers situation without all the personality.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (8/1 odds)

Not far from the Canuck hype machine is the Penguins, although they do have the hardware to back it up. With the two-headed monster of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin returning in full health, it’s obviously the safe bet to win. There are chinks though, as revealed in last year’s laughable playoffs series with the Flyers, where the Penguins defense was akin to a sieve made of swiss cheese. What’s worse is their best d-man, Kris Letang, is strongly considering keeping his KHL contract. The loss of Jordan Staal to play with his brother in Raleigh also doesn’t feel good. If they do score eleven goals a night, it might not matter.

Hmm, I guess that hair doesn’t seem to matter in Russia either.

We’re Back!

In College, MLB, MMA, NBA, NFL, NHL on January 7, 2013 at 10:34 am

By Jonathan Danielson

I know we’re a week late on this, but Happy New Year everyone, to one and all.

Right click here, and play the video in the background while you read this article.

Right-click here, and play the video in the background while you read the article.

And while I know it’s been a few weeks since we’ve posted anything (except Carosi valiantly coming through with an NFL Playoff article last week), I’m excited to announce that Hittoleftfield is back from our well-deserved holiday hiatus, and will start 2013 with new articles, new insights, and maybe a new writer (or two) in the very foreseeable future.

So what did we miss while we were away?

Nothing really. Angels owner Arte Moreno woke up one day and decided to randomly give Josh Hamilton $125 million dollars. “Black Monday” saw seven coaches and a bunch of GM’s get canned. Because I was on vacation, I couldn’t do my final NFL Power Rankings (1. Denver, 2. Seattle, 3. Who Cares?) update my current playoff picks (I chose every team that won yesterday), or my give a new and shiny Super Bowl prediction.

(Side Note: I started the season with a Baltimore/San Francisco, but am now totally on board with a Seattle/Denver. Think about it; in order for that old AFC West showdown to happen, Seattle would have to beat #1-seed Atlanta, which is totally doable since #1-seeds rarely make it to the Super Bowl, and, in their last three playoff appearance, the Falcons have lost to Arizona (2008), Green Bay (2010), and New York (2011). What do those three teams have in common? They all went on to become the eventual NFC Champion. Seattle would then go against either their current divisional rival, the San Francisco 49ers, or in the more desirable matchup, Green Bay, the victim of the Monday Night Fiasco,and we all know how that went down. 

On the flip side, Denver would have to beat the current team from Baltimore with the old quarterback of the old team from Baltimore, then, since Houston won’t beat the Patriots, will have to go against the Golden Boy himself, Tom Brady, in a classic Brady-Manning Bowl for the ages. If Houston does beat the Pats, which they won’t, Manning would then have to against the team he kept in the gutter for more than a decade. You couldn’t write a better story, and what helps this Seattle/Denver Super Bowl dream become even more realistic is that both teams are the hottest tickets in the NFL right now. Fingers crossed!)

We missed some other stuff too. Los Angeles became a Clippers town, the NHL labor dispute finally and mercifully ended, baseball writers everyone have publicly freaked out over how they’re filling-out their Hall of Fame ballots, Justin Upton is still on the trading block, Junior do Santos took a beating like the Terminator, and kept coming back for more, Chip Kelly is not leaving Oregon, Django Unchained was flipping awesome, and while that has nothing to do with anything about sports, I’m sure I would have found one way to include it in at least one article or another, and Rex Ryan revealed his horrible tattoo.

Which is worse? Rex got his wife tattooed, or that weird looking lady? That was a "Mark Sanchez is Rex Ryan's wife" joke. Oh, never mind.

Which is worse? Rex got his wife tattooed, or that weird looking lady? That was a “Mark Sanchez is really Rex Ryan’s wife” joke. Get it? Get it? Oh, never mind.

But let’s not dwell in the past, and what we’ve missed, and look forward, onward, into the future. Hittoleftfield is expanding, we are trying to bring you more and more content everyday, and for those of you who have read us from the start, or those of you who are reading your first article ever right, we thank you for your support, and your continued support into 2013.

Thanks for reading, and it’s nice to see you again. No matter how long a vacation, sometimes it’s good to finally come home.

Oh, and lastly, tonight Notre Dame plays Alabama in the BCS Championship game tonight. Like everyone else living in a state that wasn’t once part of the Confederacy, I’m rooting for Notre Dame, but I know Alabama will most likely win, because I know no one pays better than the SEC.

So Roll Tide, I guess.

Either way, thanks again, and stay tuned.

Light Beer, Viagra, and Family Guy References

In Media, NHL on November 7, 2012 at 10:56 am

By Chris Carosi

Gary Bettman is the NHL’s first commissioner.

Look! Gary’s Happy!

And, as commissioner and top ranking executive officer of the league, Bettman’s role is (and now I’m quoting the NHL Constitution), “[To protect] the integrity of the game of professional hockey and [preserve] public confidence in the League.”

That’s a funny little sentence. Firstly, as anyone who follows any professional sport closely might know, the NHL has been partially ignored by the media and the general public. This, no doubt, is partly due to its absence during the 2004-2005 season, and its drop off of the mainstream radar (also known as ESPN).

When the game returned the following year, it really did feel like the NHL was starting over, changing the rules to make the game more “marketable” by eliminating two-line passes, limiting the goalie’s ability to play the puck, and trying, oh so hard, to push their game to the ESPN crowd anyway as if it was 1988 and the whole game developed around Gretzky (skate and shoot) with the hopes of 8-7 final scores. The league started its play at the mainstream sports market by building a fan structure on superstars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, whose “rivalry” would ignite interest in the “light beer, Viagra, and Family Guy references” demographic.

“Camera’s on us, dude, look like your hate for me is barely contained as feisty respect.”

What it did do successfully in those two cities (Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.) was catalyze a young college-level (and younger) fan base that was waiting to be discovered. And it warmed the hearts of the old guys with bad skin who’ve been watching hockey at the Corner Tavern every other day over fistfuls of horrible local pilsner, but those guys were always there. Anyway, the idea was to piggyback the rest of the league’s markets off of this hype, get some SportsCenter coverage, and carry on steadily. It kind of worked.

I say “kind of” because the thing about hockey fans is that they seek to destroy, complicate, or disregard hype quickly because they are very much obsessed and the blog presence with hockey is unusually high (that’s another demo the league captured without knowing it—this might have been a result of dissatisfaction with current coverage). In the hockey world, there was (and still is) a ton of hate directed at Crosby and Ovechkin and their respective teams. The rebellion was obvious with people already interested in the game but there were some encouraging long-term results.

The Red Wings, Penguins, Blackhawks, and Bruins won Cups in succession. That’s waaaaaay better for the league’s rebuilding than teams in Carolina, Tampa, and Anaheim winning during the time of the last lockout. Leave it to the NHL to experience shrinkage when teams in new markets win. It’s a shame, really. Hockey towns winning cups means something is going right: real evidence that the heart and soul of the sport is alive and well.

Also (and it’s a big “also”) every single playoff game last year was on national television. That shows two things: 1) NBC had real confidence in its brand. 2) They actually displayed real confidence in their brand. And it’s no secret that the ratings have steadily increased over the years. And the Kings won a Cup (to close the Gretzky circle started so long ago). Look at that. Interesting.

“Hold your questions, Mr. Gretzky has lost his contact lens in the electrical hazard of 80’s microphones.”

It seems to me that the NHL dreams about the audience that could give a shit about its product and it just can’t seem to give itself time to gain its footing. I’m not saying this is Gary Bettman’s fault. Given the time the game has spent these last few years in the basement level of cable sports (the Versus network, now known more homogenously as the NBC Sports Network), the coverage had improved, the camera work not so clueless, the intermission coverage a bit less pointless (except Mike Milbury) but the basic ways that regular Americans can warm back up to the sport are being clamped down again. Even the change of the name to NBC Sports Network felt more resolute and shiny, like a show of trust, bringing the network’s coverage of professional football and professional hockey under one roof. But now that group-hug is losing its grip… again.

If NHL fans are looking for a miracle, it won’t happen. The players put together a sentimental little video package, using the purity of the sport itself to get the populace on their side, but they can’t defend themselves when it was the vast majority of their bosses that voted for the lockout in the first place. The league needs to change and it needs to be long term. It was Mario Lemieux that famously said the NHL was a “Garage League”. This is what he meant. Wait, he’s an owner too. Damn!

“Hi, kids, I’m Sidney Crosby. The tiny Reebok emblem on my cap signifies my broken heart.”

The NHL is a glacial league stuck in a rut in a world quickened by social media (it’s like Internet amphetamine). If it really wants to get that sweet piece of the viewing millions they believe they want like the other three major sports leagues in this country, it will take a lot more than salary arbitration and flirtations with shared revenue to do it. It will take real ingenuity, because for how many steps they took forward these last few years, they’ve now taken more steps back… for the second time in six years… to the brunt of everyone’s jokes… and children are crying… and Canadians, poor Canadians, are seriously depressed. I am depressed.

Basically, if there is an agreement and the players can skate, I think a really good idea for Bettman would be to start the season on the Winter Classic, which is perhaps his trademark brilliant idea—a yearly, repeatable, and unique spectacle that no other sport can never ever replicate that attracts regular folks to the television who don’t particularly enjoy hockey.  That would be a good idea, to make a grand gesture to the public while providing a solid ground for their loyal fanbase to stand on. Good ideas can be in short order in the No Hubris League and I have semi-privately been selling Bettman short since I’ve seen his sharply-defined little punam when I was a youngster. But here’s hoping (and it’s a suspicious hope) that he has something up his sleeve. Eh?

On Relocation, Part 1-of-4: The National Hockey League

In NHL on June 25, 2012 at 1:08 am

With all the rumors still circling about a potential Phoenix Coyotes to Quebec City or Seattle move, I thought I would take a moment and reflect on other teams in other sports that are also in danger of moving, or should be moved regardless of their situation.

Since the Thrashers were the last professional sports team to relocate (when they moved to Winnipeg from Hotlanta in 2011), and with all the Will-They-Stay-or-Won’t-They-Stay drama still going on in Glendale, I thought I would start this four-part piece with hockey, then move on to baseball, basketball, and lastly, football.

NHL team location map, as of 2012.

As you can see from the map, the majority of NHL teams reside either A) on the more eastern side of the country, or B) in areas that at least see snow. There are the exceptions of course, and pretty much all of them are south of the 36°30′ north parallel. Since the Coyotes are on the cusp of making a decision one way or the other, I’m going to exclude them from the conversation, and go to straight to the next best option for departure.

1. The Florida Panthers

The least memorable logo in a league comprised of forgettable logos.

What’s more ironic than a hockey team in the desert? A hockey team in “The Sunshine State.”

What makes it worse is that Florida has two teams, the Panthers and the Tampa-based Lightning, both with mostly apathetic fan bases. It was really a toss-up when deciding which of the two teams should get the boot. The Panther’s play in the sexier Miami-area and just made the playoffs for the first time in 12 years, while the Lightning did not, and is stuck playing in the giant retirement community known as Tampa Bay.

When it comes down to it though, the Lightning have a new owner, a revitalized arena and the trump card, a Stanley Cup win. They were also only a game away from another Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2011. Needless to say, the Lighting need to drop the “Tampa Bay” part of their name and rebrand themselves as the “Florida Lightning,” because they’re the only team that is needed to represent their state.

2. Columbus Blue Jackets

A really snazzy logo can’t cover up a really undeserving city.

You will be hard pressed to ever hear me say something nice about Ohio. Maybe it’s because the state is utterly obsolete and inconsequential, yet its residents still get to pick the nation’s president every four years. Maybe it’s something else, I don’t really know. What I do know is that, if I had my way, the Browns would have never been reestablished and the Indians would be forced to change their mascot (which is still only half as offensive as Washington’s football team). The Cavs would probably be moved, and Ohio State would have received much harsher penalties for their scandal last year.

Now that brings me to the Blue Jackets.

The city of Columbus, although the state’s capital, cannot and will never be able to support two professional sports teams. I don’t even understand how The Crew have managed to survive there (if you don’t know what The Crew are, it’s because it is a Major League Soccer team, and who knows anything about that?). Columbus is just too small a market for one team, let alone two, and the residents in the state’s other cities (Cleveland and Cincinnati) either don’t care or already have allegiances to other teams. While it was a nice theory to move the team there, the whole business plan was just a recipe for disaster from the very beginning. Especially when there are more potentially profitable and deserving markets available. This team needs to be on a bus to Seattle or Quebec City by nightfall.

3. New Jersey Devils

The Devils are DTF the state of New Jersey.

The smart money would put the New York Islanders, not the recent Stanley Cup loser, in this spot. I mean, New Jersey already lost the Nets, do they need to lose another team? Plus, I am not a fan of any city, regardless of whatever city it is, having two teams in any sport except maybe baseball. Maybe. Call me old-fashioned.

Therefore I should be all in favor of New York losing one of their teams. But every rule has an exception.

Yeah, the Islanders have four Stanley Cups to the Devils three, but the last time the Islanders won was in 1983 and the Devils, although losers, were just in the Finals. The Islanders have the worst arena in hockey, and its lease is up in a few short years. There is no plan for a new arena. Everything points to the Islander leaving Long Island as soon as they can.

So why are they not on this list? Because the Devils are on the verge of a Coyotes-like bankruptcy and NHL takeover. Their owner has repeatedly stated that he regrets ever moving the team to New Jersey. Because the “Battle of New York,” the Rangers-Islanders rivalry, deserves to be preserved. It sucks for New Jersey, but New Jersey sort of sucks anyways, am I right, or am I right? Or am I right? Or am I right? Whattayou looking at?

4. Anaheim Ducks

Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack!

Remember when the Ducks were the Mighty Ducks and Emillo Estevaz coached them? Those were the days…

Either way, this one will never happen, but it should. As I stated before (and was proven to be complete a hypocrite by my advocacy for the Islanders staying in New York), no city, regardless of what city it is, deserves two professional sports teams, unless it’s baseball, and even that’s suspect.

Anaheim is not a city. No matter how hard people in Orange County try to spin this fact, or argue with you about it, let’s be clear; Anaheim is a suburb of Los Angeles.

Yet Anaheim believes they are entitled to their own professional sports teams because they say traffic prevents them from getting to downtown Los Angeles to see the Lakers, Clippers, Kings, or even the Dodgers across town, in a timely manner. How can they be a fan if it takes so long to go see their team play, they argue?

But let’s be frank here; another factor to why Anaheim wants their own teams is race. The greater LA area is a melting pot of different races and cultures, while Anaheim is predominantly stuffy affluent white people. They want their own teams in every sport, far away from the ‘non-white’ parts of Los Angeles, so they don’t have to drive out of their comfortable neighborhoods and associate with the ‘other’ people. They don’t want to have to share. And no matter how much people in Orange Country try to spin that, or argue about that, that’s a fact. They want their safe Disneyfied teams, while LA can have the Dodgers or the Kings. The Lakers are okay, though, because movie stars like them, and who else can afford tickets?

Cities Deserving Teams

“All I want is for you to steal the shared, communal sense of pride that is experienced in another community so I can have a shared, communal sense of pride in my community. And a rhinoceros. I want a rhinoceros.”

With four teams that need to be moved (again, without including the Coyotes, whose fate one way or the other will soon be decided), here are the four most deserving cities that should receive a relocating franchise.

1. Quebec City

Personally, I’m not quite sold on the merits of Quebec City having a professional sports team, but here’s why they deserve one anyway:

1) They’re Canadians, and Canadians love hockey. Granted, the NHL is trying to expand to larger, more broad markets outside of Canada, but why not pander to the populace if they’re that vocal about it?

2) They’re building a new arena anyway, so the NHL might as well give them a team so the city can finally just shut up about it.

2. Seattle

Seattle is a great sports town that already lost their Sonics. Granted, they’re doing everything they can to steal the Kings away from Sacramento, and in a year or two will probably succeed, but right now they’re still the victims. We still feel bad about Clay Bennett stealing away their team. Why not give them another one?

That, and Seattle is also the 13th biggest market in America. They have a great economic potential, and if you’ve ever watched a Seahawks game (I don’t know why you would, but if you have) you know the city’s sports fans are dedicated, and slightly insane. With the proximity to Vancouver, a built rivalry is already in place. Any sport would thrive.

3. Kansas City

A new arena, a fan base similar to Oklahoma City and central location make KC a great landing spot for any professional sports. This city deserves a hockey team and a basketball team. OKC2 anyone?

4. Salt Lake City

Except for maybe San Antonio, Salt Lake City is the king of small market success. Also, it’s cold as crap there. There is a built-in interest in the sport, and because it it’s a close-knit community that rallies around their teams, it’s big enough for a second franchise to be successful there (besides just the Jazz), even though it’s one of the smallest markets with any professional sports team.

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