Number of People Nice Enough to Stop By....

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monumental Thanks

So I'm going over the Caps schedule for this season and trying to figure out which games to go to.  And of course there's plenty of good games to choose from, starting with the opener against the Hurricanes.  There's the Dec. 1 matchup against the Penguins--always entertaining.  Now the one I've had my eye on is the end of season game against the Panthers.  That's during Fan Appreciation Week, where at the end of the game it's been a tradition that the players give their jerseys literally off their backs to some lucky fans in attendance.  That's when it hit me....

When has there ever been an "Owner Appreciation" night?

I can hear you snickering on the other side of the monitor.   Well laugh all you want, but think about it:  while it's true that we the fans are what keeps the team going, you have to admit that, without ownership, there wouldn't BE a team in the first place.  Players' salaries, management, staff, facilities, equipment, even those oversized souvenir cups all cost something...somebody's got to pay for it all so that the team can keep going, right?

Look, I'm certainly not suggesting we happily accept the prices we pay given the state of things.  But as long as we all understand that this is the way things work (because we should all know by now that communism failed) why not appreciate what we have? Because the fact is, we have one of the best owners in the game, perhaps in all of sports.  I don't care what others think, give me Uncle Ted any day.

Show me another owner who has done as much or more for the fan experience at least in hockey.  When Mr. Leonsis took over ownership the first thing he did was open his email up to suggestions about the team, big, small, and in between.  And you know what?  He read EVERY SINGLE ONE.  How do I know?  Because I sent him one myself about the lack of information regarding the Verizon Center---stuff like Metro stops, parking, places to go after the game that kind of thing.  He sent me a reply that was short and to the point---he thanked me for my input and he'd look into it.  Sounds generic yeah I know--except he actually DID look into it because now there's all kinds of info including this handy page on the Caps' official site.

Then there was the list.  I'm talking about the 101 (some say more) improvements he made so that the gameday atmosphere was much more enjoyable. Things like cleaning the glass between periods and the goal horn.  I remember watching the first game that year seeing how excited he was when that first goal was scored.  That's what makes it so special--Ted obviously loves being part of it just as much as we fans do--because he is one.  If you want to know more look here.

And how could we ever forget the time during the 2001 playoffs against Pittsburgh when he created that program to block residents of Pennsylvania from buying playoff tickets?  NIIIIIIIIICE.  Hey--I say it's a small price to pay for shoving Yanni down our throats years later.  You don't have to go back too far to remember that one.

Even his greatest failure was done out of love for the team.  I remember one big complaint we as fans would have was that we would never go after big-time free agents in the past. This approach was under the previous regime which was more, uh, frugal.  So what did Ted decide to do?  Grab the biggest name in the game at the time, Jaromir Jagr.  Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time.....

Perhaps Ted's greatest contribution is that he has made the NHL the most internet-friendly of the four major sports.  Scratch that, no not perhaps....it IS his greatest contribution.  Because with his background in how New Media works (sorry but "internet-savvy" doesn't even begin to do a titan like Leonsis any justice), the word "blogosphere" is now a part of the hockey vocabulary.  And that means anyone who has a love for the game from the guys and gals at Japers Rink right down to my humble little site here all have a chance to air our feelings---and be heard loud and clear.  Podcasts and blogs?  They'd still exist but probably wouldn't carry the weight if they didn't have the blessing (and backing) of Uncle Ted.

When it comes down to it, Ted Leonsis does what all fans hope an owner will do--give a damn about both the team and the community.  So much so that he's willing to recognize a part of the market that sometimes has gone unnoticed.  That's right, my backyard of Baltimore, Maryland.  By all accounts (watery ice surface notwithstanding) the Baltimore Hockey Classic was a huge success. Awesome decision to have the game there although if it's to become an annual thing, they need to find a way to de-humidify First Mariner a lot better.

Like the pic?  I call it "Walk the Red."  I unfortunately didn't have the pleasure of watching the game live, but this was taken from my trip home on the Light Rail.  If you think for a moment we Baltimoreans don't love hockey, think again.  Plenty of Capitals red from where I was, both on and off the train.

Ted Leonsis has done and will keep on doing so much for the fans--count on it.  Certain detractors who shall remain nameless can't even take away from what he has accomplished.  Let them squawk all they want, it matters not.  When you can write a book called The Business of Happiness and mean it, you don't have to listen to a handful of idiots making senseless noise. We should all be so lucky because when you do what you love, it shows.  Let that be a lesson to us all.

Oh yeah, thanks Ted...for everything.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

REPOST 9/11

Below is a repost from last year.  I really hate it that I have to post another "downer" of an article again, but at the same time, it's important to stop and remember moments like this.




WE WILL NEVER FORGET

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't pay my respects to two great souls who gave their lives to the game as part of the 2,977 victims of the 9/11 attacks nine years ago today.  United Airlines Flight 175 carried Los Angeles Kings scouts Garnet "Ace" Bailey and Mark Bavis.  Old time Caps fans know Bailey for his four seasons with the Caps in the late '70s.  If you read Coach Boudreau's book, you would know that he was supposed to be on that plane as well, but was asked to stay an extra day for a Kings' developmental camp.
It's both strange and cruel how the fates work out these things that one team benefits and another loses out.

In any case, these two were part of a terrible day, one that should never be forgotten.  But I write to celebrate their lives, not so much to lament their deaths.  This is because they both made a contribution to the game we all love.  Bailey put his stamp on the game mainly as a player, winning two Stanley Cups with the Boston Bruins.  He went on to provide leadership to a scrappy Washington Capitals team that worked its way to respectability after its first four years.  But his leadership skills truly shined when a young Wayne Gretzky was coming through the pro ranks. Bailey was there for the Great One's first pro season with the Edmonton Oilers. Gretzky credits Bailey in his autobiography as being a good friend as well as being a mentor to him during the waning days of the WHA.  I would say most likely this trait helped him land the job as head of pro scouting for the Kings.

Bavis, while not as well known as Bailey, had a strong career in his own right.  In his playing days, he played for the legendary Jack Parker at Boston University.  He went to the Frozen Four all four years he was there.  He was then drafted into the New York Rangers system.  After knocking around in the minors for a while he turned to coaching, eventually becoming an assistant with the Harvard University men's team.  He was hired as Ace Bailey's assistant in 2000.  He is so well thought of today that, if you do a Google search on his name there are at least a half-dozen memorial pages for him.  His legacy lives on in his surviving family--his twin brother Mike is now an associate coach at their alma mater--Boston U.  His legacy will also live on in the charity created in his name the Mark Bavis Leadership Foundation.  If nothing else, this man is a hero to me because he dedicated his life to teaching young people the game he loved--hockey.

God rest their wonderful souls.  The sport and the world was made better because of them.


Until next time, folks, I'm still the Blueliner on Point.  Catch you next power play shift.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

More tragedy....

Just when we'd all hoped it was over...there's more.

I couldn't believe it when I saw all the links saying "KHL crash"---you knew it couldn't be good.  And it isn't.  Even though it happened to members of what is basically the NHL's bitter international rival, some good people who were once (and always will be) members of the NHL family were on board that plane.  I heard Tomas Vokoun was "very distraught" at Kettler today when he heard the news. He was upset because Karlis Skrastins, a good friend and teammate of his for so many years in Nashville was on board that plane.

So were Brad  McCrimmon, Pavol Demitra, and Ruslan Salei, all three with their own storied careers.

I remember each of them---McCrimmon led the league in plus-minus in 1988, Demitra was a dazzling forward with St. Louis and Vancouver, and Salei the hard hitting Belarussian defenseman for Anaheim.

This makes me sick....but I had to say something.  You don't just let something like this pass without paying some respects.  The Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team is now decimated, yet will somehow find a way to continue if I know hockey, however.  Though a hockey season seems to be a secondary concern now.  My heart goes out to the families of all those who lost their lives.

I'm sorry...I'm not prone to free writing like this, but I suppose despite the distance it's hitting a lot closer to home than you'd think.  Because hockey players are family...even on opposing teams.  That's why the most noble traditions in all sport---the end-of-series playoff handshake--exists.  That's one of the many things that makes the game so great, and why we love the game and those who play it so damn much.

And so I'll end with this...make the most of the time with your family. Because you just never know....and this  past offseason has proven that in spades.  I believe hockey teaches valuable lessons and this is no different.  I just wish it wasn't so costly.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Random Ramblings--A Few Laps Around....

I'm looking back and realizing that it's been some time since I last posted. Even with all that's gone on in the hockey world and for the Caps as well, I haven't been able to organize my thoughts the way I'd like.  So bear with me while I do some looping laps around the ice as it were.

I don't want this to be the focus for this go-around, but as the NHL mourns its third player death this off-season, you  can't help but wonder what in the hell is going on.  From what I've researched, depression played at least some part in two of these incidents.  Like I said, I'm not going to get into this too much, especially since this says it all.  But I'm throwing in my $.02 anyway because I happen to know something about fighting depression.  And there are certain idiots who have posted comments on other sites who probably know nothing about maintaining mental health.  I don't typically curse in my writing, but shame on these assholes who take potshots at people with legitimate problems--problems that happen to be REAL.

Whew...call that one a wind sprint, because it got me going.  Let's switch gears a bit and talk more moneypuck.  And you know what they say..money is honey...right?  Wrong.  At least not according to Ryan Lambert at Puck Daddy.  Not exactly related to the Caps, but it is--I'll explain.  According to his article about James van Riemsdyk on Puck Daddy, the Flyers not only overpaid, but overpaid early.  So in other words, this would be like Brooks Laich getting his contract as soon we got him from Ottawa.  I can see the point he's trying to make but what I want to say is  hasn't he ever heard of the phrase "taking a flyer" (pun always intended) on a young player?  A big contract is usually doled out for one of two reasons--you want to reward a player for one big year, or perhaps several OR you want to show a young player that, as a hockey organization, you're committed to his development.  This contract is obviously a sign of the latter.    The connection to the Caps is one of the commenters of the article.  Some guy name Mark took it upon himself to notice that the Caps had already done this type of overpaying and that it wouldn't be long before the hockey media anointed them as the next Cup champs.  Heh, thanks for reading Mark and, by the way, it's already been said!
   

Now that I think about it, the Flyers did pretty much blow up their team with the two big....trades they made.  And they spent the savings on a goalie...ONE PLAYER! Which makes me feel somewhat better about the Caps situation.  Because to be honest when I first heard about all the moves  I felt like the team was being blown up before it accomplished anything.  Then I realized that the foundation is still there, it was just the second tier that needed retooling, and the team looks better for it--at least on paper.  So perhaps it's not all about the money money money after all....heh, tell that to my accountant, but I'm just saying....saying it all with a smile.

Last lap, going to bring it home.  Rookie camp is about a week away and so we'll get a decent look at  Cody Eakin, Stanislav Galiev and Dimitry Orlov.  A lot of the pros have already come in and hit the ice as well including Marcus Johansson.  Check this out as well as this sick shot from MJ.  Marcus was that you?  Buddy...where what this last year?  Oh yeah, it was last year.  I know what I said before, I just want to see him do more of that.  And here's hoping he will now that he's got a year in the NHL under his belt.  Nice to know we've got a good stable of youngsters to step in when necessary.

Rookie Camp is pretty much here.  Next up is the preseason and then the 95th NHL season.  Opener is October 8 and I can't wait.