Our Lord and Savior, Christopher Kunitz

The Ottawa Senators/Pittsburgh Penguins had to push things to the limit and so the series went to game seven THEN double overtime. The lord and savior of Pittsburgh, Chris Kunitz, fired home a shot to end the game 3-2 to the Penguins who stand victorious as the Eastern Conference Champions.

It’s nice to be able to contribute,” Kunitz said, “but we all know it’s a team game, and we’re all going to have to pull our own weight at some point.”

Incredibly, Kunitz hadn’t scored AT ALL in the playoffs this year until last night’s game where he scored the first and third goals.

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The Penguins will face the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final. This is the first time the defending champions have made it to the final since the Detroit Red Wings in 2009 – and the cup hasn’t been won twice in a row since 1998 which is also held by the Red Wings. Big shoes to fill, Pittsburgh!

Whilst the Predators going all the way would be a fairy tale, the Penguins have plenty of their own.

  • Ron Hainsey, 36 years old, played 906 NHL games without EVER going to the playoffs. With his trade to Pittsburgh, he has experienced the playoffs and has gone all the way to the final.
  • Mark Streit, another veteran at 39, has never won a Stanley Cup either and how sweet would it be to win one with the Flyers’ biggest rivals after spending four years in Philly?
  • Matt Cullen is likely to retire at the end of the year, aged 40. He has already won cups in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes, and last year with the Penguins – but wouldn’t it be nice to end your career with a hat-trick of Stanleys?
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Credit where it’s due… the Senators played a hell of a series. Karlsson was outstanding, as was goalie, Craig Anderson. Anderson’s wife, Nicholle, was diagnosed with cancer in October last year so Craig took around three months off to care for her and their children whilst she underwent treatment. To miss such a big chunk of the season, go through hell with his wife’s health, and to get back and perform at the level he has is commendable – many times throughout the series Anderson kept the Sens in it. Congratulations to the team for making it so far – and best of luck to the Anderson’s in Nicholle’s fight with cancer. You can follow it here: http://www.stickbynik.com/

 

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LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, YOUR WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS THE NASHVILLE PREDATORS

Huge congratulations to the Nashville Predators who are living the fairy tale! The team won the series against the Anaheim Ducks and have been crowned the Western Conference Champions. They will play the winner of the Penguins/Senators series for the coveted Stanley Cup.

The Predators are the first team to reach the final after being a 16th seed – impressive. Colton Sissons scored a natural hat-trick to give the Preds a healthy 6-3 series clinching win over the  Ducks. The team was without Ryan Johansen who underwent emergency surgery – but that didn’t stop him from watching the game with Kevin Fiala and captain, Mike Fisher, in the arena.

I told him I love him. We miss him. He’s a huge part of our team. He played a great playoffs and we miss him. I just told him we miss him, but he’s still a huge part of us – Roman Josi on Johansen

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The music city has lived up to its name during the playoffs with the national anthem being sung by Mike Fisher’s wife, Carrie Underwood, as well as Kerry Clarkson, Keith Urban, Trisha Yearwood, and Lady Antebellum.

PK Subban who was traded by the historic Montreal Canadiens in return for Nashville captain, Shea Weber, is now set to play in his first Stanley Cup Final and had this to say:

I’ve never been on a team that works as hard for each other as these guys do.

All’s well in Smashville!

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Getzlaf’s Apology

Transcript of Getzlaf’s ‘apology’ after Game 5 of the Western Conference Final: (Thanks to Queeraspuck)

Getzlaf: You know, obviously, a situation like that where I’m on the bench by myself, frustration set in there was obviously some words said, not necessarily directed at anyone in particular, but just kind of a comment. I gotta be a little bit more responsible with the words I choose. Definitely as a father, as somebody that takes a lot of pride in this game and the respect for it, um it’s tough to see somebody refer to it as what TSN did. I didn’t mean it in that manner in any way and, you know, for that to got that route was very disappointing for me.

I did accept responsibility and I accepted the fine. We talked to the league – I understand that it’s my responsibility not to use vulgar language period. Whether it’s a swear word or whatever it is, we gotta be a little bit more respectful of the game and that’s up to me. I expect- accept that responsibility and we’ll move forward.

Reporter: Is that something you regret, looking back? I understand your meaning and what you meant by it, but is it something you regret though?

Getzlaf: Well again, of course, that’s my responsibility is to understand that there’s eyes and ears on us all the time. Um, fortunately enough no one heard it, if you can read lips it’s a little bit harder and I apologize for that. That’s a thing that you know, you won’t hear from me again. I hope I didn’t offend anybody outside the circle that we trust, so.

To translate for y’all: I said something homophobic and can’t believe it’s being called homophobic. I’ll continue to say this crap away from cameras so nobody can call me out on it. I’m not apologizing to the LGBT community, but rather to the league. 

Hockey Is For Everyone* (*Or is it?) (Are we seeing a pattern here yet?)

The battle for the Western Conference Championship is in full swing and things are getting nasty – of course they are, the Ducks are playing. Nashville’s Ryan Johansen has had a pop at Ryan Kesler saying “his family and friends watching him play, I don’t know how you cheer for a guy like that“. Beats me! What’s more, in game four, captain Ryan Getzlaf shouted a homophobic slur at the referee “f*cking c*ck s*cker”.

Maybe it’s not as bad as what Andrew Shaw said, maybe it’s not as bad as other things that have been tossed around the league that haven’t been captured on camera, but it’s not a sliding scale. None of these are acceptable. Getzlaf was fined the maximum $10,000 – but that’s pocket change when you’re on a $9.25million salary per year. The money will go to the NHL Player’s Emergency Assistance Fund which supports players and their families who are facing financial hardship as a result of various reasons such as failing health or salary mismanagement.

For a league that puts a lot of emphasis on hockey being for everyone, they are not doing enough to drive homophobia out of the league. Rainbow tape on a stick one month out of the year is not enough. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t do that much in the grand scheme of things. Getzlaf isn’t going to be ostracized by his team or the league for his comments; he’ll continue playing and continue receiving sponsorship deals because he’s a good player, a captain, and a gold medalist. He gets a free pass.

Know how to stop players from saying offensive remarks? Fine them. Ban them from games. Ban them from playoff games. Then they’ll learn. And for all the arguments that he didn’t mean anything by it, he was in the heat of the moment, it’s an emotional game – that vocabulary exists in his vernacular. Receiving a fine is not enough to stop that behaviour. The league needs to drive home the lesson that winning is less important than being a decent human and not treating others like crap.

Maybe Getzlaf wasn’t targeting the LGBT community – he just said something that happened to be homophobic because he was pissed off. And that’s fair enough. The words slipped out with no particularly malicious intentions behind it. But the fact remains that these slurs are heard day-in-day-out by non-heterosexual people who face  being bullied, beaten up, or murdered just for who they love. Right now in Chechnya, Russia, gay people are fleeing the area in case they are detained and tortured. But hey, it’s just words and hockey is for everyone!

Stanley Cup Playoffs Round Three

And now eight has turned to four. We are halfway through the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the remaining teams need only eight more wins to lift the coveted trophy. So, who have we got left?

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How is everybody’s brackets looking? A complete disaster like my own? Nice to know.

Ducks/Preds

The predators going all the way is something like a fairytale – pekkarinne.jpgand the ducks are most definitely the villain. They seem to be one of the most hated teams in the league, and if you ask a hockey fan who ought to win then the answer is likely to be “anyone but the Ducks”. The series kicks off on Friday, giving the Ducks very little chance to breathe or prepare as they only beat the Oilers in game seven last night. The two teams actually faced each other last year, and, eerily, the first two games were also played in Anaheim. Last year, Nashville won both and will be hoping to repeat that once more. The Preds will play defensively as it’s their strongest area. Kesler and Getzlaf – both very large, skilled, and experienced guys – did an outstanding job at smothering Draisaitl and McDavid to eliminate the Oilers, so they’ll be looking to do the same to the likes of Forsberg, Johansen, and Arvidsson. Nashville needs to take two early wins in Anaheim to shake the Ducks’ confidence then hammer the nails in the coffin on home ice.

Help us Pekka Rinne, you’re our only hope.

Penguins/Senators

Yet again, did anyone expect the Sens to get this far? Can anybody name more than five players on their roster? Whilst the team hasn’t got many big “superstars” like Crosby or Malkin, they do have captain Erik Karlsson who has been skating the entire playoffs on a broken heel though you wouldn’t know. At 26, he’s in his prime; he’s a two time Norris trophy winner and has points in all games of the playoffs except one. They’re not a particularly high scoring team – they finished 22nd in the league for goals per games – they’re very good at opportunistic breakaways when the opposition is napping, but these plays are often orchestrated by Karlsson. Locking Karlsson down will be key to keeping the Sens quiet. As for the Pens, they’ve just come off a game seven win against the Washington Capitals so confidence levels are high. Marc Andre-Fleury has been absolutely wonderful. Crosby, likely nursing a concussion still, is always dangerous – and the second part of the two headed monster, Evgeni Malkin is an intimidating presence on the ice and leads the team with 18 points in the playoffs. Like a hydra, you cut off one head and more appear… Guentzel, Rust, Kessel, Hornqvist, and Schultz are all firing the cannons in Pittsburgh. Ottawa needs to be water tight in defence, but with so many Penguins firing at them, it will be a tough sell. The Pens have a home ice advantage in the first two games, but after Crosby severed Marc Methot’s finger in the regular season, the Sens might be out for revenge.

One BIG reason to root for the Sens is that if a Canadian team win then Donald Trump will not get his hands on the Stanley Cup! LET’S GO SENS!

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Hockey Is For Everyone* (*Mostly Everyone)

During February, the NHL hosted a “you can play” month whereby they declared that hockey was for everyone. One of the prospects in this year’s draft is Jaret Anderson-Dolan, who was raised by two mothers. Nancy and Fran met whilst playing hockey, and had Jaret skating at 18 months old.

Anderson-Dolan is expected to be picked by the second round. He had a 70 point season with the Spokane Chiefs. Whilst at pre-season camp, he was invited to participate in VO2 testing – to measure the ability of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to muscles. This is usually reserved for veterans, but Jaret, at 16 years old, had a test number in the mid 60s and not a single other player reached 60 – then in his second season with the Chiefs, he hit high 60s which is generally the highest score in the NHL combine.

The player is hard working, eats organically, and studies sport psychology (good lad), and during “hockey is for everyone” ensured his stick was taped with the rainbow pride tape. The entire team followed suit despite issues with the tape being poor quality and breaking some players’ superstitions about their equipment.

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In a sport where trashtalking is the norm, he has faced backlash over his two mothers in the past. Whilst going through the WHL bantam draft, he was told by some teams that they would not take him because of his two mothers. But sure, hockey is for everyone, right?

“I can’t change people’s opinions. If that’s how they feel about it, I’d honestly rather not be in that organization if they’re going to be like that. I’d rather be in an organization with the Chiefs where they support it completely. Maybe that ended up with me falling in the draft a little bit, but I don’t really care, honestly. I’m proud of my moms. I’m proud of my uncles, my aunties, everyone I know that is openly gay. I have no shame about it, and neither do they.”

Good luck to Jaret in the lead up to the draft and beyond. He’s sure to be a great representative of the sport!

NHL update…

We’re almost at the halfway mark of round two of the playoffs and here’s a quick update of how things are shaping up.

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Preds/Blues
I predicted Blues would win in seven – still possible.

Ducks/Oilers
Ducks in six was the prediction and I am prepared to change that to Oilers…

Penguins/Caps
So far the Pens have looked better but don’t rule the Capitals out yet.

Rangers/Senators
Wakey wakey New York, you’re in the damn playoffs!!

Also… Congrats to the New Jersey Devils who will have the first round pick in the 2017 Draft (and Nolan Patrick will likely be heading their way). Hard luck to the Colorado Avalanche who were absolutely atrocious for the entire duration of the season, had an 18% chance of winning the first pick and still did not manage that, so will take the fourth overall pick.