Monday, March 30, 2009
One of the hot button debates around the NHL, whether amongst GM's, owners, league officials, the Commissioner or the fans, is the issue of fighting in the NHL. Some feel that the fighting in the NHL is an unnecessary element, others say the sport would not be the same without the scraps. While there are many legitimate reasons against fighting, or for harsher penalties and such, there are also convincing reasons to keep it in the game. Many complain that the violence and particularly the fighting, turns many potential fans of the sport away. However, the fans that the fighting has attracted to the sport should also be considered. The sport itself is a violent game, high paced, high intensity, hard hitting action, like no other sport played. Some argue that the occasional fight amongst opposing goons is a way of keeping the game civil, and allowing teams to vent pent up intensity. It has been argued that if the staged fighting between two men, in a way protected by the officials who jump in shortly after each get a few jabs in was not available, fans would resort to their sticks being the peacemaker. While a far more lethal and dangerous thought, its hard to say if this would in fact be the case.
When uninterupted, hockey can be one of the most beautiful and artful sports in existence, there is no question about that. The fast skating, tape to tape passing, fancy stickwork, and finesse is a beautiful thing. A large portion of the game's fans stem from an appreciation of this facet of the sport. While others like the physicality, I say the beauty lies in the hybridity of the two. The high skill coupled with the high intensity, and believe like many that there is room for both. What the NHL has decided to do, going forward for next season, is to put an end to "staged fights." This would be something like having each teams designated fighter drop their gloves immediately after the puck drop of the faceoff for a "main event" style fight at center ice. The NHL sees this as an artificial, theatrical aspect of the game that is dangerous to player health and to the game's public image. As much as I love to see it, especially when facing a rival, I think I agree with them. Both from a safety standpoint and a public relations standpoint, it's probably good business by the NHL. However, fighting followed by a five minute major the way we see it today will still exist. While the NHL will not tollerate a "staged fight," they will allow a fight that breaks out as a result of a hard hit, or more, "heat of the battle" or "act of passion" variety.
While this sounds good in theory, I think all it means is that the goons will be even more theatrical, and will still find a way to fight under the new rules. One thing hockey is full of is rivalries, and the Atlantic Division has some of the most fiercest in sports. Rangers/Islanders, Rangers/Devils and Rangers/Flyers are all ugly games and great to watch. As of late Rangers/Penguins have also begun to develop a rivalry. The close proximity of the teams and the natural rivalries of the cities (New York and Philadelphia for one) all help to contribute to the intensity and the break out of near brawls.
Right now, bloggers covering the NHL and the 30 NHL teams are all voicing their opinion on the matter as we await the playoffs. A playoff year that I assume with be doubly fight filled as the goons of the game get their fill for perhaps the last time as they once knew it.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Well, there's no question that the NHL is heading into one of the most exciting finishes in recent memory. Following the trade deadline and a slew of coaching changes (Rangers, Montreal, Pittsburgh), teams are getting ready to make the final push to secure a playoff position. Problem is there are more playoff worthy teams than spots available. The Eastern Conference race is shaping up to be one of the tightest and most exciting races seen in years. While Boston, New Jersey and Washington have the top three spots all but locked up, the remaining five are completely in play. After Philadelphia who is in 4th with 84 points, spots 5-10 are only separated by 4 points. Right now as it stands, Montreal and Pittsburgh have 80 points, Carolina has 79, the Rangers have 78 in the eighth and final spot, followed by Florida who also has 78, and Buffalo at 76 points in 10th place. With roughly twelve games left until the final tally, you can be sure that who ever is left on the outside, looking in will be sorely disappointed.
Things in the Western Conference are not all that looser, while Detroit, San Jose and Calgary pretty much have locked up the top three spots, followed closely by Chicago and Vancouver in 4th and 5th, the remaining three spots are a complete log jam of teams vying for position. Just four points separate the 7th position and the 12th position. There have also been a number of surprise teams this year, with Columbus and Nashville, two of the latest expansion teams added both have a shot of making the playoffs this year for the first time ever. In the East, the poor play of teams like the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens, all favorites this year and all playoff teams last year, have seen their head coaches ousted. All of these story lines have provided for much to be talked about in media circles assigned to covering the NHL this year. Whether it be bloggers, who are undoubtedly having a field day and record number of hits due to the current climate in the NHL, or mainstream sites like NHL.com, TSN.ca or even ESPN.com, there is no question that this has been a banner year for the NHL.
Between three major contenders all clinging to the final three spots of the conference, three surprise coach firings, an anti-climatic trade deadline, and the closest conference standings this late into the season in recent memory, have all provided for excellent opportunities for bloggers to comment on the situation, and for fans to vent and leave comments on how they feel about their teams performance.
Excellent sites to keep in mind while following the playoff push are: hockeybuzz.com and hfboards.com. Both sites have a number of different bloggers not only blogging the NHL in general but blogging specific teams with team specific sites and weekly content.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
In today's world in which people seek up to the minute information, covering the trade deadline of any sport could be quite demanding for news organizations and bloggers. They need to work extremely hard to keep users and information seekers posted with up to the minute news and details regarding their favorite teams and players. While in years past, many would have had to wait for the following day to find out how their team faired at the deadline, today, many websites make it their goal to provide up to the minute information regarding deadline deals. As soon as news leaks of a deal, it is posted, analyzed and commented on almost instantaneously. This year, sites like NHL.com and TSN.ca head "Trade Deadline 2009" sub sites which showed all the trades made by NHL teams as they were announced. By clicking into a trade, those interest could read up on an analysis of the trade provided by NHL analysts and color commentators. However, for those die hard NHL fans who could not wait for the mainstream media to announce trades, their were other sites, many of which were inaccessible due to high traffic on March 3rd and 4th.
These other sites are ran by amateur hockey insiders, who because of their more unknown and annonymous nature, could break news and rumors prior to any official announcement by teams and leagues. While sometimes unreliable, they provide an excellent source of information for fans who are truly craving the latest information. Many sites thrust the fan right into the trade negotiations, providing specific details about the trade hours before it is made public on sites like NHL.com and TSN.ca. These sites include hockeybuzz.com, hockeytraderumors.com, thefourthperiod.com, and hfboards.com. Sites such as these rely on both bloggers, many of them have a blogger reporting on each NHL team, and user supplied information. Many of the bloggers on these sites also have access and connections with NHL and team officials, and some even have press credentials allowing them to get very close to the team.
Perhaps one of the most popular and controversial hockey insiders is a blogger simply known as "Eklund." For years he has made a living simply known as "Eklund, the Anonymous Hockey Blogger" on his site hockeybuzz.com. While he maintains an anonymous identity, he openly states that he has access to many NHL teams and general managers, and has a great deal of access with the Philadelphia Flyers. Many question his legitimacy, as he has often reported deals and brought about speculation and rumors that have never panned out, however, in many instances he has reported accurately. As a long time visitor to many of these sites, I would say that they are an excellent source for general information, and getting a feel for what teams are thinking and planning on doing, but ultimately, no one knows whats going to happen until it really happens. In this day in age, teams are very careful to keep their intentions buttoned up, mainly because of the growth of the digital media and the rapidity of information sharing.
At the deadline, the New York Rangers acquired right wing Nik Antropov from the Toronto Maple Leafs for their second overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, and a conditional pick, which can be anything from a 4th rounder to a 2nd rounder, depending on the performance of the Rangers this year. The Rangers also acquired defenceman Derek Morris from the Phoenix Coyotes, for forwards Petr Prucha, Nigel Dawes, and defenceman Dmitri Kalinin. Antropov and Morris join the recently re-acquired Sean Avery as they attempt to help the Rangers secure a playoff spot with less then twenty games remaining. Both deals were fairly well received by fans, as they addressed the teams need for size and scoring upfront with the addition of the 6'6", 240lb Nik Antropov. Morris also provides depth on defense, and with his shot from the point, should help the struggling Ranger powerplay. Their next game will be this Sunday at 12:30PM against the Eastern Conference leading Boston Bruins.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
This year the NHL launched NHL GameCenter on their official website. GameCenter allows fans of the NHL to stay informed on the happenings of every team in the league, not only by simulcasting each teams games, but providing an interactive interface that displays each players game and season stats, upcoming opponents, standings and news and access to game highlights, all at the users fingertips. Years ago, long before the internet, cable television and ESPN, fans of teams not playing in their local market would have to wait until the morning paper to see what their favorite team did, but today anyone could be a fan of any team essentially and follow them with just as much coverage and information as local teams receive from regional sports networks. This has clearly helped tremendously in expanding the NHL brand.
As well as the expanding the visibility of the game and teams around the league, the emergence of the "blogosphere" has dramatically changed the way in which sports teams are covered in the media. The NHL is no different, with thousands upon thousands of internet blogs all commenting on the day to day occurrences around the league and individual teams. Professor John Pavlik opens chapter six of his book with the following quote:
"Since the dawn of modern mass communication, those who have controlled the means of distribution of the media have wielded enormous power. Distributors of media have often exerted significant influence over public opinion, reaped huge financial gain and often held the ear or eye of elected officials and other leaders whether locally, nationally or internationally."
This could not be any more true, especially within the blogging world. The advent of the blog has increased the spread of the media by infusing the sports world with thousands of amateur journalists, many of whom have grown quite large, with a significant amount of pull and influence. Just as groundswells can quickly grow and escalate when people become fed up with a politician in the news media, the same can now happen in sports within the large blogging communities that have developed. Fans have a venue to vent their frustration with a team, player or coach and can significantly influence the teams, the league itself and other fans, especially when in great numbers.
This could be seen in the recent firing of New York Rangers head coach Tom Renney. While Tom has had a fairly successful tenure as head coach of the New York Rangers, many Rangers bloggers and fans had been disappointed with his "soft" style since becoming Rangers coach. Many perceived him to be too easy on his players, and believed that a more stern voice in the locker room may lend itself to greater success. For the greater portion of this year bloggers have called for Renney's head, pointing at the teams shortcomings as a result of his coaching style, and eventually when the Rangers went on season worst skid, losing ten of twelve games, Renney found himself out as head coach. Now, I'm certainly not saying that the bloggers alone are responsible for Renney's firing, but what they do is provide a climate around the team. As if the New York media is not enough of a burden to the coach of a struggling team, the bloggers multiply it greatly, and have more of a direct relationship with the fans in the seats. This influences the fans perspective, leading to "Fire Renney" chants at Madison Square Garden, which of course is then picked up by the more conventional media, and soon you have a full blown movement put in motion to oust the coach. A truly remarkable underground force in sports. Ultimately it was the Ranger's poor play that led to Renney's firing, but you know what I'm getting at here. Just a few of the blogs covering the Rangers, aside from this one, could be found at Blueshirt Bulletin, The Dark Ranger, 5-Hole, Beyond the Blushirts, Blue Seat Blogs, Pucks on Broadway, The Ranger Pundit, and many many more.
With regard to the Rangers play tonight against the Avalanche, what could you say? They score 28 seconds into the game on a beautiful rush up ice by the new first line of Dubinsky - Drury - Callahan (Callahan scored off a feed from Dubinsky on a 2 on 1), and 60 seconds later Zherdev iced the game on a ugly, crash the net style goal that deflected off the skate of an Avalanche defender. Shortly after the flood gates opened, seeing both a goal by Gomez and also a powerplay tally by Chris Drury. Markus Naslund and Petr Prucha also found the back of the net. While it's easy to get excited about the six goal explosion, perhaps what was more important and indicative of the success was the way the team came out of the gate following the heartbreaking loss to the Panthers on Thursday night. The team skated hard and fast throughout the game and the Garden buzzed with delight as if it was the opening night of the Conference Finals.
You have to also love the fight and grit the team showed, a complete fight fest emerged as if it was Rangers/Isles out there tonight. Would have been nice to see Shoenny and Granato grapple a little down the hall to the dressing rooms after the game, but NHL officials were quick to break that up. All in all, excellent game, and you have to say that each of the last three games could have easily been Ranger wins. With four days off before they lace them up again on the island next Thursday against the Islanders, you know Tortorella will further instill his philosophy and work ethic on the team, desperately needing to string a few together here down the stretch.
The Rangers also got help today by the New York Islanders and Atlanta Thrashers, as both teams won their games against the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Panthers, leaving the Sabres and Panthers at 8th and 9th respectively in the Eastern Conference. With the win tonight the Rangers have moved into the 6th position with 72 points, three behind the Montreal Canadiens.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Enter the Billy Martin of the hockey world, John Tortorella. Pierre McGuire of NBC Sports was a guest on WFAN's Mike Francesa earlier today and said that he was pretty much sure that Torts was the man tabbed for the job. Tortorella served as the Rangers assistant coach during the 1999-2000 season, before taking over as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightening. In 2004 he won the Stanley Cup with the Lightening before being fired in June of 2008 after missing the playoffs with a 31-42-0-9 record. Tortorella should be a breath of fresh air and has the potential to be a star personality with the New York media. Lets hope that he could light a fire under the flat Rangers and possibly salvage the season.
More to come soon...
Saturday, February 21, 2009
About a year ago I started this blog in an attempt to provide original and perhaps new commentary and information on beloved New York Rangers. As a fan of the team, I often found myself going to independent websites and blogs for information regarding the team, and not the official Rangers website. The "blogosphere" was new, and provided a greater range of opinions and information that was not common in the more mainstream websites like ESPN.com, NHL.com or even NewYorkRangers.com. After becoming an avid contributor to other blog sites, and commenting often, I decided to start my own blog with the hope of providing yet another view for Rangers' fans. However, the rigors of a hectic school and work schedule prevented me from really getting the ball rolling and I eventually shelved the project to be resumed at a later date.
Fortunatley for me, and maybe you, that later date is now. Professor Pavlik's assignment to create a blog for the Exploring New Media class has given me an oppurtunity to again explore blogging. The scope and information provided by this blog will change however, as I will not only be talking solely about the New York Rangers, but I will discuss the Rangers, the NHL and the more broader themes surrounding the way in which both are covered by media outlets in the age of digital media. My ability to comment and publish personal thoughts, pictures and video is just further testament to the ways in which digital media has transformed the way in which people get their information. Bloggers also have the unique ability of being able to voice the opinions of the everday fan, and in great numbers can create groundswells which sway support for players, coaches and general managers in the NHL and all sports. Often the mainstream media picks up on the pulse of bloggers, and in a way, bloggers provide an alternative to mainstream media, a supplement to mainsteam media and can even influence the mainstream media.
With that said, I hope you all come to enjoy both my commentary on the way in which the evolution of digital media has impacted the game, and also enjoy my commentary on the Rangers. If by chance someone from Exploring New Media who is a Ranger fan comes across the blog, please feel free to comment and give me your opinion on any and all topics related to this site and the class.
As far as the Rangers go, as I write this, the score has gone final in Buffalo. The Rangers have lost 4-2 to a surging Buffalo Sabres team, and have now dropped to the 8th and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference. I would have to say that Tom Renney's departure appears to be imminent.
While this in no way qualifies as an expert opinion or interview, I could not help but laugh and share it with you. As I was writing this post, I received a text message from both a Buffalo Sabres fan, and a member of the class, Jason Ochs. His text, verbatim: "yea man ur def right rangers wont make the playoffs." Yet another example of the fast paced, rapid spreading of information we encounter everyday. Now if only Jay Ochs was an actual correspondent with relevent information to share with me...
Good night all...