Fri Mar 14 03:45pm EDT
Hockey games can offer their share of compromising positions between players. Such was the case in a game in Norway between Sparta Sarpsborg and Storhamar Dragons this week.
Storhamar’s Nathan Martz, who played at the Univ. of New Hampshire from 2000-04, fell down while pursing the puck in the offensive zone. Sparta’s Erlend Lesund had his leg briefly pinned under Martz, but then both recovered in an odd position: Lesund straddling Martz as he was on all fours on the ice.
What happened next? RIDE’EM, NORWEGIAN COWBOY!
Seriously, we were about three seconds away from Martz being bridled ...
Martz understandably was looking for a holding penalty during that horseplay, but the referee said “nay.”
But look at Lesund’s arms! They were totally not holding him. His groin? OK, fair point, but show us that in the Norwegian League rulebook.
In a related story, Lesund and Martz are officially Norway’s entry in the 2016 Olympic equestrian event. Those jerseys will be nifty regalia for the dressage competition.
Fri Mar 14 03:10pm EDT
By Melissa Geschwind
The NHL has made a strong statement over the past couple years that it welcomes fans of all sexual orientations. There are still slip-ups, but teams are working to eliminate casual homophobia from the rink.
Casual sexism, on the other hand, remains a constant hum that teams not only tolerate, but generate.
Arena organists play “Big Girls Don’t Cry” to taunt opposing players headed to the penalty box. Mike Milbury refers to Daniel and Henrik Sedin as “Thelma and Louise.” Chris Neil calls out Johan Franzen by suggesting Franzen “drop his purse [and] take his lipstick out.” And in about half of NHL arenas, the ice is shoveled by women in various states of undress.
For the most part, these women are more than capable of doing the job. They’re seasoned skaters who clear the ice quickly, efficiently and without interfering with the game. And they show leg, midriff and cleavage for some reason.
Some teams have fully-clothed people (sometimes men and women, sometimes just men) clearing the ice. No teams have half-dressed men shoveling the ice, nor would anyone expect them to. Why should they? There are plenty of places for gay men and straight women to go for that kind of thing, and a hockey game just isn’t one of those places.
But it is a place to go if you want to see scantily-clad women, because EVERYWHERE is a place to go if you want to see scantily-clad women. It’s so pervasive that the people it appeals to can no longer recognize when it’s inappropriate, or even just out of place.
"It's what every college in the country does. It's what every NBA team in the country does. It's what every lacrosse team in the country does," says Steve Johnston, Executive Director/Producer of Game Presentation for the Colorado Avalanche, which introduced ice girls for the first time this season. "It's a tried, tested and true method."
He’s right, of course. Cheerleaders and their skimpy costumes are nothing new and, as Dallas Stars Executive Vice President/Chief Revenue Officer Brad Alberts says, “I think for the most part women are accustomed to seeing it.”
Women didn’t have to get accustomed to seeing scantily-clad women on the ice during in-period timeouts, though, until the New York Islanders introduced the NHL’s first ice girls squad in 2001-02. What was once on the sidelines is now on the playing surface, and not just during intermissions. It’s a step backwards, and it again reinforces the idea that the NHL says it’s for everyone, but it’s not really for women – or at least, it’s not for women who are in it for the hockey. Ice girls look a lot like professional puck bunnies, and their presence undercuts the notion that teams value female fans as highly as male fans.
“I don't like when women are unnecessarily and overtly sexualized, and I don't like being a female fan in an environment where that's the way women are presented. And sitting the crowd while guys howl at the ice girls really makes the experience less fun and more hostile,” says Laura Brown, a 27-year-old Islanders fan. “The Islanders also have their ice girls show up at events and just... pose sometimes, and I hate that too.”
The ice girls’ presence both in and out of the arena also means the teams think their on-ice product – the actual hockey - isn’t enough. It isn’t enough even when you bring in music, giveaways, mites on ice, trivia games, off-day player appearances… none of it is enough without some T&A.
Alberts freely admits that the Stars feel they need cheerleaders and ice girls to help attract and keep fans.
"We have to be more than just the game," he says. "In Texas we live in a major football culture and cheerleading is a part of that culture, and we felt like we needed cheerleaders."
Johnston and Islanders Vice President of Game Operations Tim Beach, though, claim their respective teams don’t need ice girls in order to satisfy their fan bases. Both say that during games, the ice girls’ costumes, hair and make-up are secondary to their practical role: Clearing snow during stoppages in play. They also insist that every aspect of game presentation is designed to be family-friendly and that the ice girls are extremely popular in their communities, where they make hundreds of public appearances a year.
But when the Islanders’ ice girls give presentations at schools, they wear track suits rather than their regular game day regalia. “Schools have enough problems with dress codes,” Beach says, “that the last thing we want is for them to have to worry about our dress code.”
Those track suits are nowhere to be found on the ice girls page of the Islanders’ web site, which consists entirely of photo galleries of each squad member posing in an assortment of midriff-baring cheerleader uniforms.
About half the teams in the NHL have ice girl squads with similar presences on the clubs’ official web sites. It’s soft-core porn with team logos, and it gets clicks – according to Beach, the ice girls gallery is the second-most popular section of the Islanders’ site, after game stories.
Some teams don’t even bother making sure all their online ice girls content includes some connection, however tenuous, to hockey. The Los Angeles Kings’ ice girls calendar is month after month of women in string bikinis – and not even in team colors posing on the beach.
The 2012 edition of the Stars’ annual “Lake Day” video shows women cavorting on a boat while suggestively lip-syncing to Little Big Town’s “Pontoon.”
The 2013 edition at least includes passing mentions of the Stars, but it’s mostly just two-and-a-half minutes of bikini-clad women jumping into the water and running on the sand.
These things might sell, but they’re also degrading – not necessarily to the women involved, who are actively choosing to fill this role in return for a paycheck, but to the ones who are supposed to grin and bear the fact that this is how their favorite NHL team views women.
“It's purely for entertainment of the male fan base, and it perpetuates the myth that women and girls don't follow sports, don't understand sports, and shouldn't be at a sporting event unless it's to dress up,” says Angela Braithwood, 39, a hockey player herself and lifelong Red Wings (one of the few teams in the league with neither cheerleaders nor ice girls). “Yes, I understand that they are out there for a practical purpose (scraping the ice), but specifically in revealing clothing and pretty makeup? What's the need to be pretty for that job?”
“It has to do with social norms in sports,” says Avalanche Manager of Game Presentation Amanda Erdman, who notes that "there were plenty of females, myself included, who were on the committee to pick the uniforms."
Obviously, not all women are bothered by the presence of ice girls at games, but that’s at least partially due to “social norms” established long before women began not only cheering for hockey, but actually playing it. Regardless, teams are unlikely to address these concerns as long as there’s a chorus of male fans celebrating every calendar shoot and up-skirt shot. Without a high-profile champion for the cause - like the gay community has found in You Can Play - fans like Brown have little chance of getting through to team brass.
“There's going to be things that when you come out to the games that you like and there's going to be things that you don't like,” Beach says. “If we have something that works really well for us, we don't see a reason to change it.”
When it comes to homophobia, the NHL has demonstrated its unwillingness to accept ‘That’s how it’s always been’ as reason enough to maintain the status quo.
The days of taunting rivals by putting two men in the opponent’s jersey on the Kiss Cam together are, mercifully, coming to an end; it’s too bad the same progress doesn’t seem to exist when it comes to objectifying women as part of in-game “entertainment.”
Fri Mar 14 02:31pm EDT
Here are your Puck Headlines: a glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.
• Via Risto Pakarinen, Sami Kapanen says goodbye to hockey after playing his final game on Thursday.
• Also retiring is Petr Nedved, who at 42, summed up his hockey experience like this: "Hockey was everything to me. I dont know if I will ever find something so beautiful as hockey." [@jedli]
• Speaking of old Czechs, one who will continue playing next season, Jaromir Jagr, is looking good to come back next season as a Devil, says his agent. "[T]here's a really great chance." [Star-Ledger]
• Jagr to Nick Cotsonika on his three seasons in the KHL: “In one way, it helped me, because I kind of regrouped myself mentally. It was a change. I probably needed a change. I played less games there. I played different league. When I came back, mentally I was probably more excited about the NHL." [Yahoo]
• The hits just keep on coming for the Vancouver Canucks. Ryan Kesler will join the injured list as he will miss "at least a couple weeks," according to John Tortorella, with a sprained knee. [CP]
• Another day, another injury for the Pittsburgh Penguins. This time, forward James Neal will be out of the lineup indefinitely after being diagnosed with a concussion. [Tribune-Review]
• With Sportsnet ruling the Canadian hockey landscape beginning next season, where does that leave the legendary Bob Cole? [National Post]
• Darren Dreger: not the biggest fan of Nail Yakupov. [Edmonton Journal]
• Breaking down the NHL's bubble playoff teams and debating whether or not they make it in. [Grantland]
• The Saskatoon Health Region released a statement saying that doctors are trying to slowly wake junior player Tim Bozon from a medically induced coma as he remains in critical condition with meningitis. [CP via Yahoo]
• Bourne on the pressure of being "The Next One," featuring Connor McDavid. [The Score]
• Which NHL teams have the best website? Which have the worst? [On the Forecheck]
• Taking a look at which teams have the best shot for the top spot in the NHL's Draft Lottery. [Flames Nation]
• Previewing this season's "Dancing With the Stars," featuring Sean Avery. [The Royal Half]
• Here's some pretty good dangling by Sarnia Sting forward Nikolay Goldobin. [Buzzing the Net]
• After suffering a heel injury last season, Joni Pitkanen is still rehabbing with the hope of making a comeback. [Canes]
• It will be USA vs. Russia in the Paralympic gold medal game on Saturday. [USA Hockey]
• If you're in the Baltimore area, check out "Hockey for Heroes" this weekend, a 24-hour event with games featuring all levels, from mites to Naval Academy alumni. [Baltimore Sun]
• It's an all-New Jersey pop culture bracket and Doc Emrick is currently facing off against Dick Vitale. [NJ.com]
• Finally, via the Norwegian League, all this clip is missing is the rodeo clowns:
Fri Mar 14 01:46pm EDT
It's a (gettin' down on) Friday edition of Marek vs. Wyshynski beginning at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT, and we're talking about the following and more:
Special Guest Star: GAME SHOW FRIDAY! And it's a special PI Day edition ...
• The Hart Trophy race in all its splendor.
• Breaking down the wild card races.
• House goaltenders, revisited.
• Playoff race updates.
Question of the Day: Do you have any problem with teams running up the score? Email at email@example.com or hit us on Twitter with the hashtag #MvsW to @wyshynski or @jeffmarek. Click here for the Sportsnet live stream or click the play button above!
Click here to download podcasts from the show each day. Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or Feedburner.
Fri Mar 14 01:24pm EDT
It has been almost a month since the IOC ruled Nicklas Backstrom would have to miss the gold medal game for Sweden due to testing positive for elevated level of pseudoephedrine, a banned substance by the IOC and the World Anti-Doping Federation. The substance found was Zyrtec-D, an allergy medication he had been taking for seven years.
The IIHF put up a fight, but lost. And when the Olympic Games packed up from Sochi and left, there was still the matter of whether or not Backstrom would be awarded with his silver medal.
While his teammates were awarded theirs after losing to Canada, Backstrom had to wait for the results of an investigation.
On Friday, the IOC Disciplinary Commission released their decision and Backstrom will indeed get his silver medal.
The IOC Disciplinary Commission (DC), composed of Anita L. DeFrantz (Chairperson), Nawal El Moutawakel and Claudia Bokel, found that the provisional suspension was fully justified, not only due to the presence in excess of the applicable decision limit of PSE in his urine sample, but also due to the fact that the athlete conceded at the hearing, which took place shortly before the final match, that he had also taken medication containing PSE earlier that day.
The IOC DC took into account in particular that the athlete had been cooperative, had disclosed the medication in question in the doping control form and had relied on the specific advice of his team doctor that the intake of the medication would not give rise to an adverse analytical finding. There was also no indication of any intent of the athlete to improve his performance by taking a prohibited substance. Based upon these mitigating circumstances, the IOC DC considered that the athlete should be entitled to receive the silver medal and diploma awarded for men’s ice hockey.
You can read the entire decision here.
Backstrom took the test four days before the gold medal game. He was informed he wouldn't be playing against Canada two hours before puck drop. Before taking his doping test, he had listed Zyrtec-D has a drug he had taken within the previous seven days.
“I have absolutely nothing to hide. I have allergy problems,” he said at the time. “This was shocking to me.”
Backstrom had disclosed this was drug he had taken for allergies and relied on the advice of the Swedish Olympic Committee doctor that the dosage would not trigger a failed test. This wasn't the case of an athlete trying to get ahead.
And while the awarding his silver won't fix the ending to Backstrom's Sochi experience, it rights a little bit of the wrong done by him.
- - - - - - -
Fri Mar 14 12:24pm EDT
Can Phil Kessel win the Hart Trophy?
At this point, he may have played himself into the Top 3 for the MVP trophy, as No. 2 in scoring and No. 1 in our hearts, that big lug. But there are many, many other worthy candidates as well.
Here’s a look at the field for the Hart Trophy as the season nears the stretch run. Keep in mind that some of the best teams in the NHL season – the Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings come to mind – don’t have a clear MVP candidate, at least in my eyes. If you want to make a case for Rask or Kopitar in the comments, please do.
One ground rule here for the list: One player per team. Which does affect the number of candidates the Blackhawks can have, but so be it.
10. Jaromir Jagr, New Jersey Devils
Take a look at the Devils’ scoring leaders. Jagr has 15 points more than the next guy, Patrik Elias. He has 17 of his 57 points on the power play, six game-winning goals and an overtime game-winner.
The reason the Hart Trophy survives becoming a de facto “player of the year” award is context. Every candidate has a story beyond the stats, and a 42-year-old legend riding into Jersey after Ilya Kovalchuk takes his offense to Russia and leading them in scoring by a wide margin … that’s the very definition of “most valuable to his team.”
9. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Does Giroux belong here after failing to score a goal in his first 15 games? Well, if you’re going to give the Hart to Alex Ovechkin last season after his less-than-stellar opening half, you have to at least consider Giroux’s candidacy.
As the Flyers turned it around, so did Giroux, with 32 points in 29 games in December and January. His 27 points on the power play put him fourth in the NHL. Sure, his season didn’t start until November; but when it did, he was back in MVP form (if not, like, Olympic form).
8. Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks
The “Joe Thornton for MVP” campaign is cocked and ready to fire, but Pavelski’s the guy who might warrant it more. His 34 goals and 66 points lead the team. He also leads the Sharks in 'first goals scored in games' with six and power-play points with 23.
He’s always been a backbone player for the Sharks, especially in this postseason years when his teammates would under perform. This season, it’s more evident than it’s ever been.
7. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Ovechkin has scored nearly a quarter of the Capitals’ 185 goals on the season and is running away with the Richard Trophy race with 44 goals in 63 games. They’re dead and buried without him.
Alas, there’s a better chance that Putin wins the Nobel Peace Prize than Ovechkin winning Hart with a minus-27.
6. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Your classic “watch the games” candidate. He does everything, and does it well for the Blackhawks. Kane and Sharp are ahead of him in points and goals, but he leads them both in even strength points, is one of the best faceoff men in the league and faces the toughest competition in the league. The Hawks aren’t the Hawks without Captain Serious at the wheel; and don’t think his Olympic performance won’t factor into voting. Unless you’ve forgotten Ryan Miller’s Vezina already …
5. Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Seguin or Benn, Benn or Seguin? It’s a tough call as to whether one of these guys deserves Hart consideration over the other, but the bottom line is that the arrival of Seguin allowed Benn to shift into a role he’s simply better at: the sniper. His shots per game is 3.43 this season, and he’s on pace to finish north of 3 shots per game for the first time in his career. That’s because Seguin’s been a hell of an assist man, but has also scored 29 goals on his own. His multi-goal games have been dominating. Both have been great, but Seguin’s been the pace-setter for the surprising Stars.
4. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
First off, the idea that a goalie can’t win the Hart is absurd. He can if his numbers are historically incredible in a single season. He can win it if it’s clear his team would be in the bottom of a litter box without him.
Bishop is fifth in the league in starts with 51, fourth in the league in GAA for goalies with more than 30 appearances (2.14) and sports a .928 save percentage in with a 30-11-6 record. He played himself into the Olympic conversation and backstopped the Bolts in a playoff seed with Steven Stamkos out.
Not every goalie is an MVP for their team; Bishop is.
3. Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs
I want to find a way to give Kessel the Hart.
To complete this journey from lumpy punchline to being acknowledged as one of the best players in the world. To go from being characterized as a spacy, apathetic winger to the unquestioned leader on a Cup contender.
He’ll have the stats, as Kessel is once again over a point per game. He’ll have the impact, as he’s scored 57 of his 73 points in victories and is better than a point per game within the division (27 points in 22 games). He’s been a god at even strength on a sub-par defensive team.
The Toronto media machine could push Kessel into the top three if they decide to back the candidacy, but I still think he falls short of winning. Heck, Bernier might take some votes from him.
2. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
He’s having his best points-per-game season of his career (1.15) and has already surpassed his career best goal total, sitting on 29. He and Corey Perry have dominated this season, but the nod here goes to Getzlaf for his statistic season, impact on every shift and the way he’s taken the captaincy to Hart, er, heart.
Like Kessel, he’s got a strong case. But …
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Finding an alternative to Sid is less about disrespecting the Kid than it is simply trying to knock the heavy favorite for the award off the throne. Alas, Crosby might have this locked up.
He has a 15-point lead for the Art Ross (88 points). His line with Chris Kunitz has opened the scoring in at least 13 of the Penguins’ 65 games. He scores in every situation, he’s nearly 53 percent on faceoffs and has managed to be the constant as the Penguins have played through myriad injuries.
Others have strong cases for the Hart, but none stronger than Crosby. This is going to be a coronation.
Fri Mar 14 10:39am EDT
To work in professional sports, you have to be smart, passionate, competitive, and lucky. All the major leagues have a huge talent pool to choose from for a small number of positions. Making yourself standout among the rest is hard enough; getting your foot in the door is nearly impossible.
The Los Angeles Kings are offering a seminar series and networking opportunity to fans in order to give them a glimpse inside the business of hockey.
"This was a creative initiative conceived by our Fan Development Department," said Kelly Cheeseman, COO of AEG Sports, "to provide an insight into the behind the scenes workings of our business for students and other business executives that may have interest."
Cheeseman continues, "We have a number of special speaker series and college alumni events annually as group sales networking events. This will be more similar to other business and trade panel events, but dedicated to the business of our sport. Networking with top local executives and recruiting young talent to our business can all be a benefit to the series."
Another important part about working in sports is who you know. The panelists attending offer a unique networking opportunity in a non-traditional hockey market. If treated seriously (i.e. don't show up and be a fanboy), this is the opportunity to make a positive impression on those that matter.
To get the most out of the seminar, Cheeseman recommends that one "choose the panel that interests you, study the participants and be prepared with the questions about the business in advance that you may want to know."
The deadline to sign up to is March 14th. More information can be found at LAKings.com/Business.
Fri Mar 14 09:50am EDT
Mike Greenlay of Fox Sports North is one of those “between the benches” reporters, which means he deserves the combat pay he receives. Although, in all honesty, the risk of standing there like a target for pucks and sticks is balanced out by getting to hear every single colorful chirp originating at the benches.
But still – risky job, that one. Witness Greenie on Thursday night as the Wild faced the New York Rangers. Norwegian Hobbit Wizard Mats Zuccarello checked Matt Cooke of the Wild near the benches and … well, Greenlay took the damage.
Please be careful when you’re all rushing to the comments to be the first to say “should have been you, Pierre…”
As the broadcasters noted, it’s important for a player to be in control of his stick at all times. It’s also important to note that other spectators watch the game behind glass and puck-catching netting for a reason.
Last night's MVP? Greenlay's mom, who sent along this email to him after the game:
The NHL simply must begin issuing TIDE TO GO pens to all between-the-benches reporters.
(Ed. Note: Headline originally had Matt Cooke's as the offending stick.)
Check out what's buzzing on the Yahoo Sports Minute:
Fri Mar 14 01:22am EDT
We don't talk enough about how terrifying Stinger is. I mean, seriously, how is Alex Stalock supposed to focus with this chartreuse hell hornet in his periphery?
No. 1 Star: Vladimir Sobotka, St. Louis Blues
In his return to the lineup after breaking his kneecap on January 31, Sobotka made a major impact for the Blues, scoring once and adding an assist on two others in a 6-2 rout of the Edmonton Oilers. Here's his lovely goal, courtesy Vladimir Tarasenko, T.J. Oshie, and the brutal Oiler defence:
No. 2 Star: Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks
Marleau scored twice as the Sharks edged the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-3, in a shootout.
Thu Mar 13 06:36pm EDT
Here is the Puck Daddy Viewing Guide: Spotlighting five things to watch for during tonight's slate of games. Make sure to stop back here for the nightly Three Stars when the games are finished.
Create-a-Caption: "Head Coach Bob Hartley of the Calgary Flames instructs his players during a stoppage in play."
• • • • •
Preview: Phoenix Coyotes at Boston Bruins, 7 p.m. ET
Preview: Buffalo Sabres at Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET
Preview: San Jose Sharks at Columbus Blue Jackets, 7 p.m. ET
Preview: Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7:30 p.m. ET
Preview: Edmonton Oilers at St. Louis Blues, 8 p.m. ET
Preview: New York Rangers at Minnesota Wild, 8 p.m. ET
Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs at Los Angeles Kings, 10:30 p.m. ET
• • • • •
Five things to know about tonight's NHL games ...
1) Will stripping relax the Lightning? Tampa has dropped five in a row, and they're in danger of missing the playoffs if they don't turn it around. In an effort to loosen the players up, they participated in a strip shootout at their most recent practice. Will getting naked relax the group? It always works for me.
2) Bruins looking to finish on top. Hot. That describes both the bold sentence preceding this one and the Bruins themselves, who have won six in a row. A seventh would not only be their longest winning streak in two years, it would leave them atop the East at the end of the day.
3) Carolina goes for two. It's a great more often associated with the other Carolina team, the Panthers, but the Hurricanes are looking to convert versus Buffalo. They haven't won consecutive games since January, and with their playoff hopes flickering, building on their recent victory over the Rangers is paramount.
4) Rangers also hoping to draw motivation from Carolina. Alain Vigneault isn't happy that his club lost to the Hurricanes and he's expecting them to play better versus Minnesota. "I don't want to give credit to Carolina because they played a good game, but we (gave) away two points because we didn't work."
5) Kings after ninth in a row. LA has won eight straight! That's pretty impressive, especially when you consider that they led up to this run by losing 9 of 10. Hockey is weird.
Bold prediction: The Lightning win, and strip shootouts catch on around the NHL.