January 25, 2007

The All-Snooze Game

I don't know about you, but I was actually looking forward to this year's NHL All-Star game. I guess I bought into the hype - Crosby, Ovechkin, the new jerseys. About 10 minutes into the first period, with the score already 3-1, I realized the All-Star game is the antithesis of what hockey is all about.

I love saying antithesis.

Hockey is a game of passion, emotion and determination. The All-Star game embodies none of that. I just couldn't really get into it, and subsequently, couldn't watch it. I was hoping to see some fireworks after hearing that Ovechkin and Crosby - the boy wonder's and the face of the "New NHL" - would be playing together on the same line. But the NHL All-Star game isn't like the NBA All-Star game, where men's are dropping ridiculous dunks and alley-oops. It's still hockey, and it's still played on ice, so there aren't many opportunities to get the people out of their seats with jaw-dropping moves.

You know what I'm talking about. Everyone loves watching the NBA All-Star festivities. The reactions of players in street clothes watching the dunk contest is worth it alone. I'll never forget Shaq the year Vince Carter - aka The Ungrateful Whore - won the slam dunk contest. His jaw was on the floor and his arms were spread out, and he's got the wingspan of, well, a 7-foot black man. Quite huge.

Wait a second. The Shaq-phone just came to mind. Does anyone remember that phone he had? The one that was built like one of his shoes. It was massive! Got to love Shaq - what a character.

Back to hockey. Now don't get me wrong - there were a number of great plays in tonight's hockey game. Some great passes and goals. But its clear that none of the players are excited and that nobody is taking the game seriously. Goalies are smiling after being scored on, and it's just weird to watch.

The All-Star game also seems to bring out the Tomas Kaberle in everyone - nobody ever wants to shoot. Guys are passing on breakaways and two on zero's. It's ridiculous.

I just can't watch hockey like that. No passion, no emotion, no physical play. Nothing. Now I know my main man Tomas Kaberle isn't exactly the most physical defender out there, but I swear he moved out of the way and just let Joe Thornton pass him on a rush in the first period. He might as well have given him a little push as he went by.

I know - it's only one game, so I shouldn't be bitching about it. It's for the fans. As much as I hate the All-Star game, it definitely has to be done. The NHL is in dire need of publicity and awareness and if the All-Star game helps get the word out about the game down south, it's not just a must, but a priority.

And in fine marketing fashion, the game was on a Wednesday night, in primetime, and none of the major networks in the USA picked up the game.

In the end, it was a 12-9 final in favour of the Western Conference. Briere, the fist-pumping little prick from the Sabres was named MVP with 5 points. Joe Sakic racked up 4 points, and is the All-Star game's all-time leading scorer. Another accomplishment in what has been a phenomenal career.

Twenty-one goals were scored tonight, yet the game didn't interest me a bit.

I've got one question - how long is the phrase "New NHL" going to be used? Is it still going to be the "New NHL" two years from now?

Shoutout to Tomas Kaberle - the lone representative of the Toronto Maple Leafs at the All-Star game. That's my boy!

And another shoutout to Yanic Perreault, the former Maple Leaf. He didn't have a job in October. Nobody wanted him. He had a solid season for Nashville last year and is always at the top of the league when it comes to faceoff percentage, yet no one would offer him a contract. Phoenix came calling and he signed a one-year deal for less than a million bucks. Now he's an all-star for the first time in his career. He would have been a good fit on the Leafs. But this organization would rather go the Matt Stajan route. Good call.


The All-Snooze game gave me a chance to check out the second half of the Raptors game. The New Orleans/Oklahama City (which one is it, really?) Hornets were in town. The Raptors came out on top in the end, 90-88, but this was a game the Raptors of old would certainly have lost. The Raps trailed all game, and were down by 15, I believe, in the 4th quarter, before they went on a clutch run to steal the game. The Hornets, missing all-world point guard Chris Paul, seemed to be in control the whole night, and were poised to hand the Raps a demoralizing loss on their home court.

But Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon didn't let it happen. No sir, not in our house.

HUGE props out to those two guys. They were outstanding, especially in the final seven minutes of the game.

Like I said, the Raps of old would have lost this game. It would go down as a standard Raps loss, in which they underestimated their opponent and lost a game they most certainly should have won.

But these aren't last year's Raptors - and we should all be thanking the heavens, or Bryan Colangelo, for that. Colangelo's like an Angel. God sent him here to fix the mess left behind by a number of jackasses that have come and gone through the Raptor organization - Isiah Thomas, Vince Carter, Rob Babcock (the biggest jackass of all), Rafael Araujo, Yogi Stewart, Kevin O'Neill, and I could go on and on and on and on.

Games like tonight are the ones that build team character and team greatness. When you can win a ball game on a night when you're not really the best team on the floor, it says a lot about you. The good teams win games they have no business winning. The Raps did that tonight. The Hornets, a young team that isn't very good on the road, simply couldn't close the deal.

No TJ Ford or Andrea Bargnani tonight. Ford's ankle is a problem, and he's been shut down like Bosh was earlier in the season. Bargnani was dealing with flu-like symptoms, so he sat out the contest.

Looks like Ford's going to be out a while. "This Ford is Stalled" - that was the title of an article in The Star the other day. Brought back good old memories of my first car, a 91 Ford Tempo. Good times. May she rest in peace.

Calderon started his second straight game in Ford's absence. And Calderon was solid, once again. He seems like a completely different player this year compared to last. He's very intense and has a lot more confidence in his jump shot. He's a pass first point guard but if the pass isn't there, he's taking the jumper and making it, or driving to the lane. He gave the Raps their first lead tonight, late in the game, on a nice drive to the hoop when nobody expected it. You've just got to like that.

Bosh was his usual self. 35 points, 7 boards and 4 dimes. What can I say? We're lucky to have him. CB4, straight outta locash.

I'm lovin the Raptors. Colangelo, you're a genius! It's time to head out to the ACC and support the boys in red and white. My buddy 40 said the Raps are the most exciting team to be playing out of The Hangar in a few years, and I couldn't agree more.

So lets get out there and support our Raptors, my friends. I know I'm going to. They deserve it.

Goodnight, Toronto...