Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lie-ing Down

Southwest Airlines looks great on paper. $350 round trips (on relatively short notice) look great. No charge for bags is a plus. Stops in San Jose and Boise seem perfect for me. Unfortunately, Southwest almost always leaves me wishing I had paid a little bit extra to fly someone else. Ending up in the “C” boarding group and in a middle seat towards the back of the plane sucks. Flying on the only airline that counts hockey sticks as an extra bag (the others include it with your equipment as one) is a pain. The planes appear to have been built in 1973. There is this. Everything about the Southwest experience screams “cheap.” It is great when you are booking, it sucks when you are flying.

Yet, here I am, taking Southwest back to school after Christmas break. Hey, it is easy to be tempted by something that looks great and cheap on paper, even though looking closer should give you pause. Just ask the Toronto Maple Leafs. I can get a 40 goal scorer for $4 million? Sign me up. They may as well call Southwest Jason Blake Airlines, because really, while it looks great on paper it is almost certain to disappoint and make you wish you had spent a little bit more for something that had the same stats, but with less flaws (and if Blake ever sues me for defamation over the last paragraph, I can call the entire city of Toronto in as witnesses).

Today, it is a 4 hour layover in Portland thanks to bad weather, fog, mechanical problems, icy runways, a 7.8 earthquake in the bay area, nothing actually, they just figured the best way to get from Idaho to California would be to wait in Oregon for 4 hours. Anyways, since I have some time to kill, here are 10 lies about the Hockey that sound true and 10 Truths about the Hockey that sound like lies.

(And with that, the most contrived and irrelevant column open of my career is complete.)

10 Hockey Lies that sound like Truths

1. In honor of Mike Comrie, the Oilers play ‘So Yesterday’ after every loss.- How great would it be if they did, though (Comrie dates Hillary Duff , who sings ‘So Yesterday’).

2. I didn’t have to look up which team Comrie plays for in order to make that first joke.- He looked like he was going to be a star at 25, but at 29 Comrie has just 8 points in 16 games playing for his third team in as many years. I probably shouldn’t say this, but in the interest of full disclosure I didn’t have to look up that Hilary Duff sings ‘So Yesterday.’ I don’t know what this says about me, but I know that I don’t like it.

3. Brendan Witt was hit by an SUV. Witt was unhurt and in the lineup that night. Because Witt had lowered his shoulder, the SUV was totaled. – The part about the truck being totaled is the only part that isn’t true. I am not going to mess with Brendan Witt. (By the way-- perhaps my favorite piece of journalism of the year, from “But Witt reportedly picked himself up off the road and, after a few profanities, assured everyone he was all right before continuing on his way, prompting one witness to say, ‘it was like seeing Clint Eastwood, but in hockey.’”—actually, just go read the whole thing It is phenomenal, I promise.)

4. The Chicago Blackhawks could be in contention to Trade for Ilya Kovalchuk- Not actually my lie, it is Pierre LeBrun’s. He wrote it in his blog yesterday. I enjoy LeBrun’s work, but the Hawks simply can’t afford Kovalchuk, and there is no way, as he suggests, that the Thrashers are going to take on large contracts, just so they can get rid of the player that has defined their franchise.

5. Braydon Coburn and Mike Richards were spotted in the Ohio State playing beer pong and hitting on sorority girls at 3 am the night before a game against the Blue Jackets - Be honest, knowing nothing about the personal life of Coburn or Richards, you wouldn’t even question this if you saw it as a headline after the Flyers were caught CRASHING A FRAT PARTY and HAD CAPTAIN JEFF CARTER ALLEGEDLY SLEEPING WITH SCOTT HARTNELL’S WIFE in well under a year. Sometimes it is a mystery why a talented team struggles on the ice. Sometimes it isn't.

6. After glancing at the headline ‘Report: Bills, Cowher have stealth meeting,’ Blue Jackets’ defenseman Fedor Tyutin was left wondering which team the former Steelers coach was talking to.- This appears to make no sense, and be completely random, but I couldn’t help but find it funny ESPN chose to word this headline in a way that basically looks like a fragment with Cowher’s full name if you are scanning it, which most people are. So why Fedor Tyutin? I had to make it about the NHL, and saying it was ‘Blue Jackets’ defenseman Fedor Tyutin’ makes it much funnier than saying it was someone named, for instance, ‘Lightning goalie Mike Smith.’ Seriously. His name is ‘Fedor Tyutin.’ I’m laughing. (Sorry)

7. The Documentary ‘Pond Hockey’ was extremely disappointing.- I didn’t think that it was going to be bad, only that it was probably not going to live up to my lofty expectations. After all, it is about a great, largely untapped culture that I am personally interested in, having played a fair share of outdoor hockey. Usually, documentaries are best when well done, but made about something that wouldn’t seem interesting at first glance, meaning that the rookie producer trotting out big names (the top of the film’s website bills it as “a hockey movie featuring WAYNE GRETZKY NEAL BROTEN MARIAN GABORIK PATRICK KANE”—the caps and bold are theirs) who may or may not have anything to say would probably make for a slow film. As it turns out, with the exception of Broten, they didn’t have much to say, and Gretzky, Gaborik and Kane are on screen for about 20 seconds each. Fortunately, it does center around some more relevant subjects, and turns out to be quite interesting. It wasn’t the best made documentary I have ever seen, but it was still very good, and didn’t let me down.

8. Rich Peverley didn’t deserve to make team Canada.- I am not necessarily saying that he should have. Look at his stats though. They are at least as good as, maybe better than, a few guys who made it. The most surprising thing is that he was doing the same thing last year when he wasn’t hurt. That makes it hard to write it off as an aberration when he is lifting the Thrashers offense with Kovalchuk and co this year.

9. Canada’s B team wouldn’t be good enough to medal in Vancouver- My roster, in no particular order—Defense- Campbell, Phaneuf, Boewmeister, Mitchell, Green, Robidas. Forward-Lecavalier, St. Louis, Stamkos, Peverley, Brad Richards, Carter, Cammallari, Tavares, Penner, Weiss, Horton, Fisher. G- Price, Turco, Mason. You are telling me that they wouldn’t destroy the Fins or Czechs? Scary.

10. The Boston Bruins will get the first overall pick with the Toronto first rounder- Technically, it is the lottery that will likely prevent this, but I still can’t believe that the leafs are closer to 8th in the east (6 points), than last (8 points). My hat is awkwardly off to Ron Wilson.

10 Hockey Truths that sound like Lies

1. The Boston Bruins agreed to a 1 year deal with Satan- Ok, it is with Miroslav Satan, the Slovakian winger who played for the Penguins championship team last year. It is actually a really good signing, as Satan is only 35, looked to have a bit left last year, and the Bruins got him on the cheap. That doesn’t keep every headline written about the acquisition from being hilarious. Bruins sign free agent Satan to bolster offense? Hilarious. Satan at Bruins Practice? Golden. Bruins, Satan agree to deal? Awesome. Also, potentially worrying/confusing to people who don’t follow hockey.

2. A Boston Bruins goalie leads the league in Save Percentage and GAA, and it isn’t Tim Thomas- “Who is Tukka Rask?” is no longer just a question frequently asked by casual hockey fans, but now also the correct response to ‘The Finn Defense for $400—He Leads the league in two major statistical categories’ in a game of Jeopardy that I just made up because, like I made clear in the open, I am really bored.

3. Perhaps the most promising young Canadian defenseman is from Houston, Texas- I like Tyler Myers as a player more every time I watch him, but I will never pass up an opportunity to rip him for not wearing the Stars and Stripes.

4. Brendan Witt was hit by a truck and played the same night.- Sure, it is repetitive, but getting run over by a freaking Yukon, then getting up and pointing out that you have to go play some hockey bears repeating.

5. Nikita Filitov played 13 games for Columbus this season before playing in the World Junior tournament for Russia. Filitov was sent to the KHL on a loan (FIFA style) because he wasn’t getting the time he wanted in Columbus, and they didn’t have a problem with letting him develop at home, rather than in Syracuse, home of their AHL affiliate. The KHL then gave him time off to play in the u-20 championships with, basically, a lot of guys who haven’t already been signed by an NHL club for 2 years. I would care a lot more except…

6. The Swiss knocked off the Russians in an elimination game in the WJCs.- Self explanatory.

7. Ryan Callahan is on Team USA, Tim Connolly is not.- I can’t tell you how much I wish that this was in the first category, except that it wouldn’t work because you would just say ‘why the hell would they do that?’ and I wouldn’t have anything to back up why it sounded like a truth.

8. There is a tournament that pits the best players coming into a major league in the next few years, playing for their countries, in the most important event of their year, and the United States doesn’t even take notice. –The World Junior Championships really are the closest thing to the World Cup that exists in a major US sport. The WBC is a joke, and even the Olympics aren’t the most important part of a calendar for NBA or NHL players. It is the only international competition that really matters. We ignore it. Great.

9. I am willing to admit I was wrong about Ryan Malone deserving to be on the Olympic team- I had him off, but Burke was right on this one. He has great numbers, and is actually an intangibles guy at the end of the day. I still can’t believe that Callahan is in over Connolly, or that Whitney is out, but Malone is a good choice.

10. The nation of Canada is willing to put aside the fact that they are Chris Pronger and Corey Perry and root for Chris Pronger and Corey Perry in the Olympics.- There are things I will never understand.

Bonus. I finished all 2,000ish of those words before my flight left Portland.- Not hockey related, but we are bringing it full circle.

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