Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Things I've learned from the Summer With Stanley, Twitter, and Training Camp this summer

 In no particular order:

- Nobody (who isn't a Chicago fan) thinks the Blackhawks can repeat from last year. Certainly the preseason games aren't giving anybody the warm fuzzies. There's targets on their backs as defending champions, and they know it; but everybody's also busy saying they gave away half their talent.

- But that's ok. Two years ago, nobody expected the Blackhawks to even make the playoffs, either. And look at them now.

- Jonathan Toews leads by example for his team. There's nobody more intense, giving 110%, even in practices. Busy post-win summer and accolades aside, Captain Serious is back to business, and ready to hit the ice. Expect Toews to aim for an 80-100+ point season and push his teammates to aim for the same.

- Toews also keeps a Sharpie handy. He must be used to getting asked for autographs by now.

- Dave Bolland is starting the season healthy and he's happy to have a full camp and ready to have a full season. Expect a lot more of what we saw late in the season last year - he's already shown the ability to annoy opponents in preseason games.

- Marian Hossa has had it with talk about the "Hossa curse" being broken. He won the Cup, enjoyed a fantastic summer; now shaddup, he's got another season to focus on, and he's gonna kick butt, too.

- If Patrick Kane drank like a fish for weeks after the win, and needed to be wrung out like a sponge at some point during the summer, you wouldn't know it in camp. It looks like he might have put on a couple more pounds of muscle, and you can bet from the way he's been showing off fancy stick work in camp and preseason games that Kaner is aiming for a 100-point season this year.

- Just how good do the guys look in camp? Well, you know how NFLers are pretty stocky, and MLBers might have a bit of a gut... no such thing in hockey camp. Hockey guys are just stripped-down muscle. Yeah, you can't see it so much when you're seeing them on the ice because of all the padding they're wearing, but no doubt about it. And these guys sweat it out. These pics were taken outside in 85 degree heat on a humid day - after these guys had just spent two hours on the ice. Suddenly you feel a lot more guilty about slacking on your own gym routine over the summer ...

"Get down in the push-up position, and hold it... and hold it..."

They're not sitting on anything. That's a full row of wall squats or whatever they're called. 
Good for thigh conditioning.

Running ladders

- See this guy? His name is Paul Goodman. He's the Blackhawks' strength and conditioning coach. He sure as heck will kick your ass, because he's kicking the collective butts of 50+ well-conditioned hockey players.

- Instead of compiling a "what has been consumed from the Stanley Cup" list, it might be a shorter list to find out what hasn't. The Stanley Cup is probably the most frequently-washed trophy in the world. 

- Those Hawks who had to split ways with the team over the summer have that "oh, that question, again?" look in their eyes when questions about their old team came up. Whatever their personal feelings are, they're going to say all the right things, and they've already had to answer those questions at least half a dozen times. Come up with some new questions, already, plz.

- Andrew Ladd took the best Stanley Cup pictures ever. Ok, maybe not - but if somebody else did, we sure haven't seen them yet. Sunrise with the Cup over the B.C. mountains? Ladd did more for British Columbia tourism with a couple photographs than any multi-million dollar campaign. In case you're one of the hockey fans who've been hibernating under a rock waiting for hockey to start again, here it is:

photo by Mike Bolt/HHOF

- John Scott is really tall. Really, really, omg tall. Great Scott!

- Kris Versteeg could not have landed in a more perfect hockey city for his personality. A hockey-mad city in his home country that eats hockey players up like cookies. Just wait til he starts rapping, Toronto. He's the most charmingly nerdy hockey player ever.

- I will watch Toronto Maple Leafs this season not only for Kris Versteeg, but for their announcer/commentary LOLZ. How have I not watched Toronto games before? Their innuendo-laden puck talk is a wonderful compliment to any hockey game.

- Dustin Byfuglien went back to defense in his move to Atlanta, and not surprisingly, the blogosphere is giggling themselves silly about it. Prove 'em wrong, Big Buff.

- Roberto Luongo finally saw the light about why goalies usually aren't Captains, and for the good of his team, stepped down from the "C". You can be a great Captain or you can be a great goalie; it's hard to focus on both.

- Antti Niemi still needs to work on his rebound control. But he seems to have taken away some ideas from being replaced by Marty Turco in Chicago, and has been far more agressive in his puck handling so far in the preseason. It's still strange to see him in teal.

- Michael Leighton cannot stay healthy for six months at a stretch. Do some Pilates, man! Strengthen those core muscles!

- Marty Turco: goalie or 3rd defenseman? Yeah, he's not really sure either. After watching so many butterfly goalies across the league, Chicago fans are going to be collectively reaching for the antacids until they get used to watching his standing, agressively puck-handling style of play.

- Canadians will take anything hockey, and run with it. Although initial reviews of Score! A Hockey Musical are panning the flick, I have to admit my inner musical-loving theater-geek just can't wait to see it. "It's part of our hearts, part of our psyche, our country bleeds red, white, and hockey..."

- The Penguins' new arena is sweeeet. I particularly like the ice-level cameras, giving a unique and interesting perspective on the game.

- If you leave hockey fans without hockey long enough, they start coming up with Twitter memes like #NHLStarWars, #NHLcupcakes, and #NHLRealityShows, among other gems. The Cupcakes one, which followed the NY Islanders' announcement of having an official cupcake vendor in their stadium, was an all-time classic.

- Hockey fans will follow the story of a player's salary value and team signing and not say boo about what total sum he gets awarded. Another player who is on Twitter makes a badly worded remark about salaries, and gets railroaded off Twitter.

- Yet another player makes a crack about the same first player's salary, and discovers there are people out there ignorant enough to mistake political humor for racism. He leaves Twitter only to be lauded as a hero, and have fans beg that he return - and not only that, support his goofy tweets. (@BizNasty2point0, take a bow.)

- When you creatively move a player off your books through waivers or moving them to the AHL or Euro leagues, it is a perfectly legit circumnavigation of the salary cap.

- However, signing a player to a triple-figure contract that expires when your toddlers go off to college, and is clearly designed to circumnavigate the salary cap in the player's waning glory days, you're going to get nailed for it.

- Nobody thinks preseason hockey means anything, but you can clearly see fans trying to resist throwing their teams under the bus after one bad exhibition game.

- Carey Price skyrocketed up my "favorite goalies" list for telling the Montreal fans to "chill out" after they booed him for one exhibition game. Just keepin' it real, yo.

- In watching Ovechkin get interviewed about the HBO 24/7 show, I sort of grudgingly admit that Alexander Ovechkin might have a sense of humor. ("If I swear, it will be in Russian, you will not know what I am saying.") Still don't want to watch the Sid & Ovie show, although I would certainly watch a "Hard Knocks"-style show that highlighted teams across the NHL, ideally one per week for an entire season.

- The power of the people is making a positive impact on NHL clothing sales. Now if it could only help the NHL improve the focus of their marketing efforts.

- Nothing could be a better recipe for an awesome smoothie to fill the Stanley Cup than the Old Spice Man's mix: "explosive missle bits, the spirit of a mountain ram, and the tail rotor of an Apache helicopter". Wonder if that'll be on the menu at Jamba Juice any time soon?

- This might be the best hockey computer game commercial ever - too bad I have a Wii and not PlayStation or XBox:

- Being one of one a couple of non-team/non-staff/non-media sitting in on training camp practices is very, very cool. Especially when it's a vacation week and you could be otherwise sitting in a cubicle somewhere. That being said, it sort of sucks when vacation's over.

- Few things build anticipation more than looking up at your team's rafters and knowing that in ten days, they're going to lift a banner to those rafters that the whole city has been waiting 49 years to do so.

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