Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Here at the Hoser, we're glad to see newly minted Anaheim general manager Brian Burke hasn't lost his gift of gab during the long winter's night that was the lockout. Asked about the possibility of trading the Mighty Ducks' No. 2 pick on Saturday's draft, Burke said he "would be happy to trade up or down in this draft." That's nice stuff.

As for the reality of a deal, there are quite a few studs out there being obscured by the shadow of Sidney Crosby. Vancouver's Gilbert Brule and Sudbury's Benoit Pouliot have been trading spots in the rankings, and Bobby Ryan (Owen Sound) and Marc Staal (Sudbury and younger brother of current Hurricane Eric) are right up there also. Here's a thought -- how about the Blues, who for some stupid reason have decided to pay both Keith Tkachuk and Doug Weight this year, swapping Chris Pronger to the Ducks for the No. 2? It makes sense for both teams, as Anaheim can absorb the contract and use the experience, while St. Louis could either then look to move down a bit and land Staal (No. 4-6) or just go nuts, get the best available talent and market the hell out of it.

Given the track of the Blues, however, it seems unlikely. With the Lauries looking to unload the franchise, they are unwilling to eat any contracts. Mark Sauer and the rest of the Laurie flunkies are mouting about "flexibility", so St. Louis fans can look forward to another year of overpriced, mediocre talent surrounded by mediocre prospects.

At least one person knows what end is up, and that's Pronger himself. Here's his take on the Blues being unsure of whether he will stay or go:

"It's frustrating that they have had 15 months to put a game plan together. They had an idea of what (the CBA) was going to look like. It's very frustrating not knowing where you're going to be. That's the thing ... it's not that they're giving you good news or bad news. They're not giving you anything." -- quote from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and its fine reporter, Jeremy Rutherford.

In other words, the Blues don't know their CBAss from a hole in the ground.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

I found a link on Sportsfilter the other day to a truly awful story. A 27-year-old Pennsylvania man apparently offered a boy on his baseball team $25 to injure a mentally handicapped player by hitting him with a thrown baseball. The reason? The coach wanted to circumvent the rules which force a manager to play every kid on the team for at least a couple of innings. Most leagues have these sorts of rules, and having been a baseball coach for many years, I wholeheartedly agree with them. There's nothing worse than an overzealous coach who cares more about his won/loss record than whether the kids are enjoying themselves. However ...

Warning -- insensitive comments to follow

While this is absolutely despicable, can I just say I don't think having an eight-year-old mentally disabled kid on the field with other fully able kids is such a hot idea? I know we're all for inclusion and all that, but isn't there a pretty spectacular chance of this kid getting drilled by a batted ball or a throw anyhow? Is it fair to the other kids that they may have to hold back so they don't hurt the disabled boy?

I wasn't a child star or anything, but I could whip the ball around pretty well when I was eight. While it didn't change the way I played, I did always flinch at the thought of firing a throw from short to first when one of my teammates who was simply less gifted at baseball than I was was over there. Now, you can't keep a kid off a team just because he happens to stink on ice, and hell, I wouldn't want to. Some of my favorite players have been the ones who couldn't put their hands in a mitt when they showed up for the first practice. By the end of the season, we had figured out what his or her strength was and played to that.

But if a child really has little to no chance of physical improvement, stands an excellent of getting hurt and negatively affects the game around him or her to the point of diminishing the fun of the other players? I just don't know.

And yes, I'm fully aware for going to hell for saying this.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

If media outlets are to be believed, the NHL lockout is finally over. I consider it to be true because a local cable TV show just came by the store and asked me to do a little stand-up on how likely fans would be to come back and how the lockout had affected collectibles and memorabilia business.

In the Toronto area and in Canada, I don't think the lockout will have any lasting effect. From what I've learned since I moved here, hockey is more important to Canadians than baseball is to Americans. It's not just a game -- it's a style of life, something not learned but almost instinctual. You can find tons of people in the U.S. who don't know a squeeze play from squeezing the Charmin, but even a 12-year-old Canadian girl can wax elequently against the neutral-zone trap.

In the United States, however, I'm not sure hockey will be able to recover. It's not like the lockout put the NHL into intensive care -- it was there already. It's just that Americans really don't give a crap about the game. We don't grow up playing it, it's difficult to follow the puck if you don't have knowledge of the game and the game isn't urban. Markets like Detroit, Boston and New York will not have any trouble finding fans to fill seats. It's burgs like Nashville, Phoenix and Tampa Bay that will struggle mightily to regain the tenuous grasp they had on season-ticket holders. Those are towns that shouldn't have had NHL franchises to begin with, and now the collective-bargaining agreement is designed to prop those clubs up at the expenses of true hockey hotbeds. Oh, well ... when 6-8 teams do finally end up folding, that (along with two management-started work stoppages) will be commissioner Gary Bettman's legacy.

I'm pretty geeked for business to pick up here. Fans have been wandering in talking about the agreement, and they've been quietly, almost shamefully excited for a couple of months. I'm more excited, though, to finally be able to hear the "Hockey Night in Canada" theme song blaring out of my 61-inch high-definition TV. So's my wife -- and that's one way I know I married the right woman.

I like to write, and from my track record as a newspaper columnist, people liked to read what I write. Now I'm not a newspaper columnist, however, but I still sit down and bang out the occasional column, and so rather than just keeping them to myself, I thought I'd share them. I mostly write about sports (and yes, I realize I'm using the word write a lot, but the other verbs for it sound so pompous -- who pens something, or authors it?), but anything else that strikes me, I might put up something about it.

I just moved to Canada in October after getting married. Yes, we met on the Internet. She beat me playing Scrabble, and who's going to stand for that? I got the ultimate revenge, though ... she has to wake up next to me every morning. Michelle has a four-year-old son, Cabot, who is an absolute riot. He's just about to start JK or whatever it's called up here. Preschool, where I'm from. He's sharp as a tack, and I think he's going to be a big kid -- I smell a linebacker.

I help run a hockey collectibles store in Barrie, ON -- TJ Sports at the Kozlov Centre -- and I also have a web site where I buy, sell and trade game-used hockey jerseys and equipment at www.grabagamer.com. Stop by and check it out. I usually have coffee brewing and a spare candybar or something.

I'll post more later. For now, I'll close by saying my thoughts today are with those families dealing with their loss after the cowardly attack on the underground in London.