Category Archives: Sport

NHL Playoffs – Second Round Preview

The first round is over and as always there was some great, high-tempo, heavy-hitting hockey. Some stray thoughts:

  1. The Boston-Toronto series was, for me, a big disappointment. It was nowhere near as physical as a lot of people (myself included) thought it would be. I was actually hoping the Leafs would pull it off, so that there would be a little more Canadian flavor to the second round, but things ended in predictably disastrous fashion for the Leafs. A highlight for the Leafs, though, was the play of Grabovski, who despite not putting up points, didn’t give up on a single play, getting run over time and time again, but getting right back up.
  2. What Toronto and Boston lacked in craziness, the Canadiens and Senators made up for. I hadn’t seen an actual line brawl in a long time and there it was, happening between two teams that rarely engage in fisticuffs. Montreal’s lack of discipline killed them. Karlsson didn’t play as large a part of the Senators success as I thought he would.
  3. John Tavares gets better and better with age. The team around him is growing up, too. Watch out for them in the next couple of years.
  4. The highlight of the first round was definitely Niklas Kronwall’s beautiful hit on Kyle Palmieri, the crowd’s reaction to the hit and the following “You got Kronwall’d” chant.

 

And now, on to the second round.

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Playoffs – Eastern Conference Preview

nhl eastern conference

After a great Sunday game between the Bruins and the Senators the East is all set for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The final placings didn’t work out how I would have liked them to, but there’s sure to be some great hockey coming up.

Ideally, I would have loved to have seen a Canadiens-Maple Leafs match up. I’m a Montréal fan and a Leafs hater and watching two of the oldest rivals in pro-sports play each other would have been great (it’s been far too long since they last met in the playoffs). That being said, I’m sure the Bruins-Leafs series will be fun to watch as both teams have a good deal of rough and tumble to them. Also, a team that I’ve come to like a lot over the last half-decade are the Islanders, but unfortunately for them, they drew the Penguins in the first round, which is definitely bad news for them. Anyways, lots to look forward to.

On to the predictions:

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Playoffs – Western Conference Preview

NHL_2013_StanleyCupPlayoffs

It’s spring and that means two things for me: spastic allergic reactions to pollen and the arrival of the NHL playoffs. The latter came a little late this year, but at least they’re here, which is good considering that the lockout came very close to washing out the whole season.

We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to know who exactly will play whom in the East, but the West is all ready to go, so I’ll start with them.

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Fixed Gear

Masi

 

Pictured above, posing with some street art, is my new bike. It’s a Masi fixed gear bicycle and I bought it about 4 weeks ago.

I’ve always loved riding two-wheeled vehicles, both bicycles and (more recently) motorcycles. Despite that, I had never given fixed-gear bikes much thought until I saw a picture of this bike on Facebook being sold second hand. It had only been ridden twice so was pretty much untouched and looked beautiful just sitting there in some guy’s apartment.

I had decided at the turn of the new year that 2013 would be a year where I try as many new things as I reasonably could and here was something I could give a go: learning how to ride a bicycle with pedals that never stop turning.

I’ve known about the perceived benefits and detriments to riding a bicycle with only one gear for a long time, but now actually experiencing those positives and negatives has been quite interesting.

First is the idea that fixed-gear bikes make you a better rider in the following ways: good for strength and fitness, a more efficient pedaling stroke and greater awareness while you’re riding. Having ridden for about a month now, I can say that these benefits held true for me. Your leg muscles get a serious workout when you have to constantly grind a big gear and you definitely feel it in your quads. Also the fact that you use your legs to slow down the bike makes a big difference too; there is literally no rest for them when on this type of bike. As for giving me a better pedal spin I can’t say for sure, but I feel like I pay more attention to getting a more rounded rotation of the pedals rather than just mashing down on them. And then of course there is the mental awareness side of riding a bike that’s hard to stop. I definitely plan much farther ahead when I’m riding now than I did before.

A second benefit of ‘fixies’ are that they are light, simple, and easy to maintain; lacking brakes, cables, derailleurs and what not. This is accurate too, as I’ve discovered that all you need is a wrench and a couple of Allen keys and you can pretty much adjust anything on the bike. I found it’s easier to keep it clean without all that extra stuff on it, too.

Now on the negative side of things there is the fact that it is much harder to stop a bike of this design and therefore they are dangerous to ride. This is a tricky one, but I would say that once you’ve actually ridden one you will discover that it’s really no different in terms of danger than a bike with rim or disc brakes. Again, it’s all about being an alert rider. If you’re a dumb rider and put yourself in bad positions then it doesn’t really matter what kind of bike you ride; you will get hurt, but if you are smart, keep your head up and ride within your ability then you will be safe (provided, as always, that some asshole in a Hyundai doesn’t run you down).

For me the biggest difficulty has been trying to get used to having my feet stuck to the pedals. I’ve never ridden with straps, clips, cages or cleats before, so getting on and off the bike and getting rolling has taken some getting used to and has resulted in one of those awkward, embarrassing falls where I slowly keeled over, not being able to get my foot out of the strap fast enough.

Something that caught me by surprise, is that I’m still not able to ride without an emergency front brake. When I bought the bike I assumed that learning how to skid, whip or skip stop would not be that difficult. I was, however, horribly wrong.  It’s incredibly frustrating that while it takes a monumental effort on my part to get any sort of skid going there’s all sorts of people on YouTube who can lock up their rear tire on a whim no matter what speed they are riding. I suppose that it just takes time, effort and practice, but yeah, it’s harder than I expected.

That being said, this experiment with a new kind of bicycle has been more fun than frustration. It’s exhilarating to blast down the road on one of these light, quiet, fast bikes, your legs spinning as fast as they can; your heart pumping along with the rhythm. Your legs not being able to stop moving does make it feel like a melding of man and machine: the muscle tissue of your body and the steel of the bicycle working in unison to create locomotion. It feels good.

Trying something new is usually a rewarding experience and riding a fixed-gear bike is no exception. If you’re a cyclist and you want to change things up a little then try one. You probably won’t regret it.

Level Playing Field

I saw some highlights from the Lance Armstrong interview with that dope, Oprah, and well all I have to say about it is: You should have quit while you were ahead Lance. One Tour victory, two maybe three if you really wanted to push it, but seven dude, you were asking for it.

Now, I’m loath to defend a man like Armstrong, but, while I have always disliked him — he was American and won too much and didn’t seem like that nice of a guy — today, I’m going to play his advocate, and I’ll even do it pro bono.

There’s very little doubt (in my mind at least) that all top cyclists, EVERY ONE OF THEM, use EPO, PEDs or steroids. If they didn’t, they would have zero chance of winning. In fact, I would be willing to bet a significant amount of money that every Tour de France winner in the last 30 years, won with the aid of drugs in one form or another. Talk of creating a level playing is pointless; it’s already level, with the winner simply being the man who is the best among the cheaters.

As Armstrong himself said in the interview, using PEDs is no different in cycling than making sure that your tire pressure is right before a race. A guy on CNN jumped all over that, saying how terrible an attitude that is and how he forced that attitude on other riders, and how he was a hero, so when he did that it meant that everyone else had to follow suit. Horseshit. Steroids and whatnot were around a long time before Armstrong came along. It was, as well, almost certainly easier to dope before Armstrong entered the game. The standards for testing for drug use have risen steadily and it’s becoming harder to cheat precisely because Armstrong won 7 Tours. Also, keep in mind, that the only reason Armstrong has finally been forced to admit his cheating is that the French and English media went to incredible lengths to out him; putting constant, vicious pressure on all his friends and colleagues. And why did the French target Armstrong? For no other reason than that he’s American. The Brits, not being particularly fond of their cousins across the sea either, followed suit.

Currently, everyone is making a big deal out of how Lance was a bully and he’s a narcissist and he’s a prick and so on. Hey, guess what, most cyclists are pricks. Have you watched or listened to or read any interviews with other top Tour guys? Not many of them could realistically be labelled “nice guys”, and none could be called humble. Perhaps it comes with the territory. Most of us cyclists (yes, I’m one too) tend to act like assholes from time to time. Maybe it’s because we take so much shit for choosing to ride instead of drive, and not having a metal cage to protect us, instead surround ourselves with a bristly cage of righteousness and better-than-thouness. Could be that Mr. Armstrong is just the naturally occurring end product of this poisonous attitude: The alpha-asshole-cyclist.

Lance Armstrong is now in disgrace (and rightfully so) because he was unlucky enough to be very good at both cycling and cheating, which led him to win too much. I hesitate to use the word scapegoat here since he deserves to be in trouble for what he did, but the bottom line is, he was caught, and others weren’t, and that’s why I wrote that he should have stopped sooner instead of continuing to win and win. He flew too close to the sun. Just remember that in any sport at the highest levels, there is cheating, and lots of it. Cycling, athletics, pro-sports; they all have various testing schedules of varying strictness for performance enhancing drugs, and in all of them some people are caught. Logic would dictate that the ones who are caught are not the only ones using these drugs; they’re just the ones who made a mistake and got caught, and unfortunately for Lance Armstrong, he can now be included in that category.

Suck It, Jack Edwards

I’m writing this post for two reasons. One is to pay tribute to a beautiful hip-check, and the other is to make fun of Boston Bruins play-by-play guy Jack Edwards.

First, the hit by Brian Campbell on Brad Marchand:

Fucking beautiful.

 

And now, Jack Edwards:

Yep, that’s him. Just look at him. That is the face of the worst homer in all of nationally televised pro-sports.

Jack Edwards is big part of why I have come to hate the Bruins. Before last year’s playoffs I had no feelings, positive or negative, about the Bruins. But now I hate them, and it’s really hard for me to put into words just how happy it made me to see Boston get blown out by Florida, to see Campbell lay out Marchand, who is a big douchebag, and to know that an even bigger douchebag probably cried himself to sleep that night — it was a triple-header of happiness.

Due to the Bruins (bunch of twats) winning the Cup last year, we all had to put up with far too much of this jackass. Especially myself, since all of the game feeds I got on my NHL package were from Boston.

If you’re asking yourself, “Why does the Lackey hate this guy so much?”, then please go ahead and type his name into YouTube. In case you’re too lazy to do that, I’ve provided below the wrap-up monologue he gave after game 7 against the Canadiens last year.

And they gave that guy a Stanley Cup ring…

Listening to this guy during a game, and hearing him squealing with joy whenever a Bruin throws a big hit, gets in a fight, goes into a scrum or even just chirps a guy, you just know he’s sitting up there in the broadcast booth with a serious boner.

Just as bad if not worse than his vocal ejaculations is when he yells at (yes, as you can see here, actually yells at) opposing teams’ players.

All of this is coming from a guy who has never even played hockey [According to my Google and Wikipedia research].

I really can’t understand how, out of embarrassment, the employers of this histrionic goofball haven’t let him go yet. And, as it seems unlikely that Edwards will be gone any time soon, all I can do is hope and pray that the Bruins get knocked out of the playoffs early next month, so that I can keep my blood pressure at a manageable level throughout the playoffs.

Canucks/Bruins Game 7

And… Vancouver is burning.

The city of Vancouver once again showed that among its citizenry there can be found a large number of assholes (spoiled white kids and aggressive vagrants).

The Canucks themselves didn’t even bother to show up for game 7. Game 7s are meant to be classics, and this game was anything but. There’s not much more I can write about it other than to say that the right team won (the right goalie, too). The Bruins deserved to win.

Thoughts on the game:

  • CBC colour man Craig Simpson was adamant during the first period that Vigneault should be playing the Sedins as much as possilbe. He couldn’t have been more wrong.
  • The fans booing Bettman when he came on the ice to present the trophies was classless. I don’t understand why every time Bettman speaks in public people boo him. If not for the financial systems he helped to set up within the NHL, Canadians might have one or two less teams to cheer for rather than the seventh one they now have.

Well, that’s the end of that debacle. Hopefully next year will bring better things.

[Note: For some good shots of the aftermath see here]