Sunday, February 5, 2017

Not much to say so I'll say it with images

I have collected stamps in the past.  Not hockey stamps from various countries, but those from the Soviet Union and other no longer existing countries.  This image has stamps from Sweden, Finland, Canada, the overseas dept of St. Pierre et Miquelon, CCCP, Mongolia and the US.  Other countries allow images of living people on their stamps, the US doesn't, so there is a difference of approach with its stamps versus the other countries.

Parkhurst Parkie Tall Boys were magnificent cards from the early 1960s.  The didn't depend upon flashy metal or prisms or real patches or blood stained clothing swatches, the were straight up simple and lovely.  

I often talk about hockey to people, and it seems they either hate it, or love it, and those who love it are divided between the love of the sport, and with the fights.  Hockey has a long history of fighting, and while it is often said that the game has no room for enforcers, they still play, and they still protect their team's best scorer. 

Strangely, though I understand some of the interest in fighting (it is cruel, exciting, dangerous) it is why a great many people who dislike hockey, dislike the sport.  Fighting makes a mockery of the sport, and serves up very poor lessons for young skaters entering a life of hockey.  Then again I can confess, the sport is so beautiful, perhaps the speed and grace on the ice would seem flat, if we didn't have the brutality of the fights to show us what lays just beyond the controlled perfect sport.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Up and down the ice

For years I liked hockey alone.  I had friends, but none who watched or cared about hockey.  I had family, but on my side they were about football or baseball.  And while I am married to a Canadian, my wife really didn't care about the ongoing game, seasons, or events of hockey.  As a result I longed for time with her father, who was not bored with chat about the sport, but was very informed, intelligent, and even provocative in discussion about hockey.  He didn't like non Canadian players, but that is just fine, an outlook.   But due to sports cards and my son loving to play nintendo hockey, I've met numerous hockey friends, and people who are far more informed about sport than I am.

I've watched nowhere near as many games as I'd like.  I LOVE hockey.  And this year, I plan to watch more.  Come spring I am going to watch the Minnesota Boys Tournament.   

Going back to mentioning my father in law, and his dislike of players who are not Canadian, or, with special exceptions, "North Americans" so long as they are good players, I am not like that, as I like hockey of any nationality.  So, when I watch the highlights of Modo, or HVN or Riga Dinamo, all from Europe, I am thrilled by the play.  The chance to see Americans refurbish their career is one thing, but those leagues are not junior leagues for talent, the Swiss League and many of the KHL teams are quite good.  Watching the games is hard to do, as I don't have direct access, but I follow in highlights, and read updates with English language sites devoted to the respective leagues.  Go RIGA DINAMO!!!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Minnesota, The State of Hockey

The best part of being from Minnesota is the fact that hockey is widely loved, widely played, and the sport is something anyone can speak about.  From youth sports and non contact, to college and juniors and every sort of hockey from professional and for fun, you can find hockey in Minnesota. 

We love hockey, and have loved hockey for many decades.  The point is, we should never have lost the North Stars and have needed to have them replaced with The Wild.  However good the Wild will ever be or has already been, the North Stars were the best team in hockey for the fact that we felt they were ours.


Forwards:  David Backes, Matt Cullen, TJ Oshie, Joel Otto, Zach Parise, Derek Stepan, Jake Gardiner, Aaron Broten, Kyle Okposo, Neal Broten, Anders Lee, Paul Broten, Blake Wheeler, Ryan McDonagh

Defensemen:  Dustin Byfuglien, Matt Niskanen, Phil Hously, Sean Hill, Jordan Leopold, Nick Leddy, Paul Martin, Chris Dahlquist

Jon Casey, Robb Stauber, Alex Stalock

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


I've heard numerous times that people watch hockey for the fights, auto race fans watch for the crashes, and that nice guys finish last.  I cannot speak about the car races or nice guys, because there is no empirical evidence for them, but I do have anecdotal evidence that suggests the first statement is correct.  Almost everyone I know who watches hockey enjoys the fighting.  The only people I know who do not are my son and myself.  Either we don't enjoy hockey in the same way as other fans, or, we are not fans.  I assure you we are fans. 

"I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out."  Rodney Dangerfield

I am not suggesting that there is a proper way to watch or enjoy hockey.  I believe that there will be an erosion of the popularity of fighting as the world of political correctness attempts to soften the violence of the sport.  The player safety issue is a real one, however, and unless fighting stops, there will be an enormous amount of pressure to change the sport.  Brain injuries, alcoholism and pain med abuse, and dangerous behavior outside of the sport by the enforcers both current and from the past have led to a focus upon these players as dinosaurs needing removal.

But entropy is a truth that never changes.  The motion of a state goes from order to chaos.  I have no doubt that if fighting is removed hockey will lose popularity.  Fighting gives hockey a feeling of being unpredictable, exciting, it gives the sport an edge of a perception of imminent danger, however right or wrong that edge.

So, do I get worked up over fights as a human being if not as a fan?  Still no.  I watch some UFC, and boxing, but overall my view is that horrible things happen in the sport, and the allowance of fighting dirties the fluid grace that skating and speed, puck handling and shooting a small round rubber disk into a net, is.  The best aspects of the sport of hockey are made less by the actions of enforcers.

"Anybody who says they don't like fighting in the NHL have to be out of their minds."  Don Cherry

"The model for an NHL without fighting is right there in front of us. The [playoffs are] the time of year that fans love best; when the best hockey is played... [The] enforcers don't play. Even mini-enforcers... remain on the bench. Teams and coaches can't afford anything stupid and unpredictable... With no one to fight back for them, players go harder into the corners, more determinedly to the front of the net. If they want to fire up the crowd and their teammates, they have to do it themselves. And in the playoffs, they do."   Ken Dryden

"I had a few fights last year, but I need to take boxing lessons. I need to, because in the NHL it's required."   Maxim Kuznetsov

As proof of the popularity of the fighting, there are hockey card sets devoted to and celebrating the enforcers.  No matter how limited the role they play is, they are honored, and regarded as warriors, not as scoundrels or jerks with anger issues.

Friday, August 26, 2016

A return to action for the Hockey Blog.

Returning to blogging took a while.  I was at first dealing with cancer, then depression, then other issues like kidney stones... I am not just making excuses, but those are reasons.  I should reintroduce myself, but, it isn't so much about me, as it is about loving hockey.

I am a writer, published, self published, and poor.  I love hockey cards, watching games, talking hockey to like minded fans.  I am not, however, very typical for a viewer of sports.  Perhaps as a result of growing up with a father who loved a sports team unconditionally but people conditionally, I had to deal with a fan, right from the start, who was devout in his fellowship of football, all hail thee oh Minnesota Vikings.  Bless us oh father, Oh Fran Tarkington, oh Alan Page.  Well we lived in Wisconsin, in the 1960s, when the Packers were great, and Joe Namath was a rock star.  I liked the Packers and Jets, and my father gave me crap all the time.  So eventually, I gave up and liked his team, confused, perhaps, over the point.  We like who we like, right?  I loved him, he is now gone, but the moment he left us, I began to have a flood of realizations about sports likes and support.  I gave up any sort of favorites and reassessed my life.  And now, I primarily like the sports I like, for the sport, and the stories.  I used to have a list of teams I hate, but now, there are few teams I dislike even.  The Blackhawks of Chicago are pretty much the sole hockey team that qualifies as an enemy.  Quite differently, I remember the teams I loved, quietly, in the middle of football country.

While I liked hockey before then, when I watched the Minnesota Boys Hockey tournament in 1979,  after that, I followed every level of the sport.  I loved the North Stars, Nordiques, and Jets.  And many different teams in Minnesota, the Golden Gophers, UMD Bulldogs, Duluth East Greyhounds, and many more.  And the Olympics in Winter, oh hell yeah I loved the Hockey.  And I was very interested in the players from the behind the Iron Curtain.

During the 80s and 90s the spread of European athletes who had post Communist country roots, I began a love affair with even more aspects of the sport.  The KHL, German, Swedish, and Swiss leagues of hockey are now as interesting to me as any North American play.   For some reason, perhaps I am Latvian in descent deep within my DNA, I've liked the players from Latvia, and also Swedes and Finns.   So I am a person who reads articles about hockey, the NHL, KHL, and other leagues.  I wait for the spring tournaments and The Minnesota Boys' hockey tournament. 

I have favorite players, many more than the set of players I compiled.  And I have favorite teams, and memories of teams.  So I will be back sooner than the last time I said I would be back.  Best wishes, and go Islanders, Capitals, Habs, Jets, Dinamo Riga and every other team I support.

Thanks for your time.

"Bushido is realized in the presence of death.
This means choosing death whenever there
is a choice between life and death. There is
no other reasoning." Tsunetomo Yamamoto

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Shifting gears

I don't like the Summer Olympics.  The gathering of nations and athletes run, swim, throw or perform and I am generally unmoved.  It has nothing to do with the personalities at the games, and I cheer for the people my country offers up, but, other than true stories of heroics, and drama outside of and alongside of the games (Munich 1972) I don't usually get very excited.  And I've been told that there are a number of reasons for who likes what kind of Olympics, but I am content to say, Hockey and winter sports are likely regional due to the fact that snow and ice are difficult to imagine, if one has never seen it or experienced it.  I think, though somewhat facetiously, winter driving could be a winter Olympic sport, because if a Minnesotan, Wisconsinite, Upper Peninsula Michigander get 12 inches of snow, they might drive slower, but they still drive.  Other parts, south of here huddle with blankets and call it the storm of the century.  (Obviously hyperbole).

But thinking about the Winter Games Olympics 2018 I realize is a long way off, but, I suggest that there will be a renewed European presence.  I am suggesting this because if the KHL, the Swiss league, German and Swedish leagues survive in their present form, high quality European hockey comparable to the NHL will be such that the younger players in Europe won't need to go to the NHL to develop.  Also, US/Canadian retreads in the Euro leagues will be taking fewer roster positions and salaries with every quality improvement.  I honestly believe that 2018 is going to be amazing.  And not because I have dreams of Latvia winning Gold (I don't, actually.)

As a fan of hockey I can tell you that there is great hockey to watch in nearly every level and type of ice hockey.  And, living in Minnesota, I have watched the Boy's State Hockey Tournaments on television many years, and it is nearly the finest thing I've seen.  I went to UMD, home of the Bulldogs, who were and are great.  Hockey fans could do far worse than than to attend a Minnesota college and follow the sport. 

All of which brings me to say, I can't skate.  I am clumsy, I am unathletic.  I am not a person who could ever necessarily walk without worrying about my balance, let alone putting blades upon my feet and expecting me to glide across a sheet of ice.  So, when someone looks at why I like hockey, or winter sports in general, it does not come from a place of knowing, and being.  It comes from admiration and respect.  I appreciate the many skills the men on ice have.  (Having said men on ice I should say, I've watched girls hockey, and I do not altogether enjoy that nearly so much, perhaps in the future, when the skills begin to balance alongside talents).

I'll be back next week.   Until then keep thinking Ice.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Big Brawl of 1989


It was a cold night if I remember right.  I was waiting in a car for my wife as she was at a party for co-workers, a sort of Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa and New Years shebang.  The date was 12/28/1989.  

As the North Stars and Blackhawks did their warm ups and skate, North Stars Shane Churla and Basil McCrae took a dislike and acted upon it towards the Chicago players.  If there was a plan to attack the enemy team prior to the attack, I don't know, but what I do know is that while waiting for the pre-game, I heard a radio call of a dozen fights.  It was really very exciting, however wrong it might have been.


I was waiting and waiting but my wife came out of the house where the party was before the game actually was able to start.  As it was, the excitement of the many brawls had probably deflated any of the possible drama of the game.  


If I disliked the Blackhawks prior to the game, and I did, what I did now was hate them.  I hated them with a fire that could only be quenched by more fist fighting and slew footing.  I wanted to see Basil McRae crush all of the Blackhawks, and Shane Churla douchenozzle the load of them into a waste bin and dump them out into a giant dumpster.  I wanted the Blackhawks to die.

In other words, I was excited by the spectacle.  For good or ill, I LIKED IT.