Monday, March 30, 2009

In The Room...With Corey Masisak

I’m not remotely sure how to describe the press box. Awesome, would definitely have to be the first word that came to mind. Loud, would certainly have to be another.
As I waited outside the press entrance on 6th street, I watched as Matt Smaby, Mike McKenna, and another Tampa Bay player stepped out of a taxi and walk into the Verizon Center. (Now you know you have it bad when you can recognize the opposing team in their civvies).
Corey met me outside, and took me downstairs to get my press pass from Paul Rovnak. Ok, I know I was only there “shadowing”, but my pass said:
Catie Kinlein
The Washington Times
…and I’m not going to lie, I felt kind of official. In the press lounge, we put our bags down, and Corey introduced me to everyone. Joe Beninati was by far the funniest. “I love your pants!” was the first thing that he said to me. “We match!” was the second. He squatted next to my chair and held his coat sleeve up to my leg. Our clothes did not look even remotely alike, except that they were both somewhat striped. As he walked away, everyone laughed, and I heard Tarik say, “You’ve got to love JoeB.”
The first thing we did was head to the locker room for a pre-game interview of Bruce Boudreau. Afterwards we had dinner in the press lounge (yum…pasta!). Then we headed up to the press box.
It was enormous, and not at all like I envisioned. I don’t know why I thought it would be old men sitting around the tables smoking cigars; I have certainly sat in the nosebleeds enough times to know that is not true. Maybe I have seen too many baseball movies?
The box was long, and had two levels. The top was for all the people with cameras, and the lover level was for the writers. We walked down a few steps, and there, in from of me was a chair…with my name on it (literally!). Well I got to feeling all official again, especially when I was included in the handing out of all papers.
I suppose the novelty has worn off for most, but for me, it was unbelievable. I got to meet media people from every aspect of the field, and there was hockey everywhere. Not only were we watching the Capitals game, but several people I noticed had Gametracker up, and were keeping tabs on various college games (the NCAA Frozen Four is at the Verizon Center in April, YAY!).
I did however, feel a little out of place when the game starting and no one was cheering. I am first and foremost a fan, and I’m afraid it showed a little. I twitched at the first few goals, but I managed to pass the twitches off as chills (it was kind of cool in there). I was able to get my twitching under control by the second period, helped partly by the fact that we did not score.
I was glad to see that a few people were heated about the Brooks Laich no-goal. Many were grumbling as the replays came on the TVs in front of us, and you could pick out all of the Tampa Bay writers by the uncomfortable looks on their faces.
After the game was over, we rode down the elevator and I tried to keep up with Corey as he literally sprinted to the locker room. When we got there, everyone was already swarming around Brian Pothier (who wouldn’t? The man scored his first goal since being out for 15 months, and not to mention it was the game winner), so we wound up standing at the back of the giant, sweating, media huddle. Actually, let me correct myself, I stood at the back as Corey worked his way to someplace where he could see and hear Brian.
The locker room was not what I expected wither. It was smaller, and although it was crowded, I somehow expected more people to be there. The media member to player ratio was about 47:1, and with only two players in the room at a time. It was a little hectic as we stood waiting for the PR guys to bring players in. There was a commotion as Ovie walked into the room, and I heard the same questions being asked over and over again as Ovie looked bored.
New players were ushered into the room, and the media’s attention shifted focus. A sea of cameras and microphone’s surrounded Mike Green and Nick Backstrom as I watched Ovie sneak off to the showers.
After completing interviews with the sweaty players, we headed back to the lounge, and into the interview room. As I sat down in the back (once again) a man walked up to me and said, “Oh, so you’re Catie from the post!”
“Uhhh…what?” I gave him a confused look.
“He squinted at my tag and said, “Oh, I’m sorry, from the times. Nice to meet you,” and turned around in his chair.
Whoa. Did I just get mistaken for a real reporter? My official feeling significantly increased, and I smiled to my-self.
Bruce diligently answered questions, and joked with the media. We went back to the lounge, and I watched Corey write and blog for a half hour, as we chatted amiably about the days events.
When I walked outside, it was raining, but that couldn’t put a damper on my spirits and I realized how cool my experience just was; thank you Corey, thanks a lot.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

No Matter How Hard You Try...You Can NEVER Expect the Unexpected

My best friend Mia and I had been planning a trip to Kettler for at least four months—finally we found a weekend that worked for the both of us, and it seemed like that day would never come. We both waited not so patiently for the weekend, as it ushered in both the start of spring break, and, our beloved trip to Kettler.
We spent the night at my house, and when the morning came, we eagerly gathered up our jerseys, cameras, sharpies, and posters and ran out the door. Even two seventeen-year-old girls act like excited five-year-olds when the prospect of meeting their favorite team is presented.
Now, speaking as a Caps fan, the one thing I have learned is that you can never expect the unexpected, I mean, who predicted their late season playoff run last year? Me, in November, but that’s beside the point. I went to Kettler today expecting to get Nick Backstrom’s autograph, but I went to Kettler today unsuspecting at how I would manage to do that.
I should start out by explaining that strange things always happen to me. I knew it was going to be an interesting day when I rode up the elevator with Tom Poti’s cousin. So when a woman walked up to me in the pro-shop, and asked if I worked there, I wasn’t surprised. But what did surprise me, was that when I told her no and turned around to say something to Mia, she was excited to see that the name on the back of my shirt was Backstrom. It got a little stranger when she asked to film the back of my shirt. My dad and Mia stood warily by the counter, watching me. When I turned around, the reporter smiled sweetly at me and told me she was from a Swedish news station, and could she ask me some questions.

“So what do you think of Backstrom?” she asked. I’m sure that because I am a teenage girl she was probably expecting my answer to be about his looks, but the hockey analyst in me came out. “I think he’s a great player. I really like the fact that he plays two ways, he plays good offense and I like that he recovers on defense. But the best part about his offense is that he makes amazing passes, but he scores too. He’s an all around good player.” I smiled to the camera, pleased with my answer.
“You know a little something about hockey now don’t you?” she laughed into the microphone. I was pretty pleased with myself. I can’t help it if hockey is in my genes. “But he’s cute too right?” she pressed. I blushed and gave in; admitting to Sweden that I thought their talented young center was incredibly cute.
The reporter was about to leave when the camera man pointed out what was in my hand. I showed them. It happened to be my art project from the previous year; I drew the verizon center using as many different patterns, shades of grey, and designs as I could muster—remarkably the two buildings look almost exactly alike. Of course, the drawing is always a conversation starter (it started a conversation in the elevator with Tom Poti’s cousin). The normal questions came up. Did you draw this? Is this the verizon center? Whose autographs do you have?
“Do you have Backstrom’s autograph on here?” the woman asked. Unfortunately I didn’t, but I explained that it was my goal for the day. I did not expect what she said next. “We are doing a segment on him, and we could probably get him to come out and sign this for you. Would you like that?” I almost fainted; of course I would LOVE that. She was unsure of the layout of Kettler, so I quickly pointed them in the direction of the media room, since that was where I was headed. They told me to wait near the gate, and they would see what they could do for me. Needless to say, I waited by the glass and watched Mia fire of picture after perfect picture (which I will try to upload a little later). Crowds began to form as players were brought out of the locker room to sign autographs. It was hard to make your way through the mob of people, much like at a concert, and I began to worry about my chances of actually meeting Backstrom. But, the camera man came around the corner of the media room and beckoned me in. Because the media room is all glass, various fans gave me the evil eye as I passed to the front, and eventually to the restricted area.
I couldn’t contain my excitement as I waited patiently with the camera man. They were bringing Nicklas Backstrom out to meet me! He came out and signed a few autographs before standing dutifully at the camera man’s side. He signed my drawing, and made pleasant small talk with a smile that was enough to make my heart melt. They filmed the whole thing, as he complimented me on my drawing and took a photo with me, in front of a hundred jealous fans.
I walked back out with the reporters, and stood there answering questions as they filmed their closing. The final picture of the segment was of me holding my drawing up as they panned across it, ending with his autograph. Then, with a hug and a kiss from both, the reporters disappeared just as quickly as they had appeared.
As a long time fan of the Capitals, today meant a lot to me—its moments like these that make everything worthwhile. I wish I would have thought to ask their names, and to see a final copy of the special, and thank them for picking me--of all people; but thank you reporters. I got to meet my favorite player, and it was something that I will always remember.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Trade Deadline Passes With Out Significance

The trade deadline passed without significance, GM George McPhee announced at 4pm yesterday; no trades were made on the behalf of the Washington Capitals. Fans remember that just a year ago, forward Sergei Federov, forward Matt Cooke, and goalie Christobal Huet were acquired to assist in the final push to the playoffs.
Because of the talented offensive core already on the roster, only a few phone calls were made to other GM’s league-wide, all in the pursuit of defensemen. However, when it came time to discussing deals, too much young Washington talent was wanted. McPhee said that the names Varlamov, Alzner, Nuevirth, and Carlson repeatedly came up. “It was just too much to give up,” McPhee said in an interview. “You know, we want to be contenders at the end of every year, not just once in a while, and you don’t contend every year if you give away too much of your younger talent.”

Cherry Rips Ovechkin

We all know that Don Cherry has always been a controversial figure. We also know that Don Cherry always speaks his mind—the controversial Canadian has probably never once abided by the polite rule; “if you have nothing nice to say, than say nothing at all.” Cherry’s last segment of Coaches’ Corner has the entire hockey community in an uproar. Much of the show was spent vilifying Ovechkin and his goal celebrations, which is what has infuriated much of the NHL fan base.
Oh, and there is one more thing that we forgot to mention about Don Cherry, most of the time he makes a fool of himself, I mean, have you seen the suits the man wears? Well, his comparisons, and video analysis fall under the same category.
Firstly, if you watch Cherry’s clip of Ovechkin’s goals, you will notice that he was wearing the old blue and black; over two-thirds of the goals Cherry shows are from Ovie’s first two seasons, when his goal celebrations were never an issue. Also, Cherry shows you the celebrations, but what he doesn’t show are the actual goals; so what you don’t see is Ovechkin racing down the ice only to be hooked, and score as he is sliding across the goal mouth on his side—indeed, goals well worth celebrating. But, Cherry calls Ovie everything from a ‘goof’ to a ‘showboat’, and compares his celebrations to those of soccer players. However, Don Cherry is all about attention (again with the suits), so if Alex Ovechkin is in church sitting on a certain church pew designated for attention seekers, then Don Cherry is sitting right there with him.

But, where Cherry really makes a fool of himself is when he is comparing hockey, to soccer. He says that Ovechkin’s goal celebrations are reminiscent of those of the MLS, something that shouldn’t be brought to the Canadian game of hockey. But, the last time I checked, soccer was the most popular sport on the planet, cashing in with well over a billion viewers. Seventy-five years old or not, if hockey had over a billion viewers I am pretty sure Mr. Cherry would be doing back-flips.
Cherry’s mistake in his broadcast, was when he practically called for someone to take Ovechkin out. It’s a little Reggie Dunn-ish in Slap Shot, if you ask me. While most of Cherry’s “celebration” comments are easily shrugged off, the buzz he created with those words will very likely encourage some player to give it their best shot at some point. He essentially condoned it and made it sound like something that needs to be done, which is unsafe, and unfair.
So what sprung this sudden attack on Ovechkin? Many feel that the attack comes from the staunchly pro-Canadian Cherry because he is taking Crosby’s side in the Sid/Ovie rivalry. It is a well known fact that Cherry is “racist” (for lack of better term) against the European players, actually, against anyone who is NOT Canadian. I think this attack springs from the fact that Ovechkin is finally getting the recognition that he deserves OVER Crosby. Since the Canadian National Treasure, that is Crosby, has been overshadowed by Ovechkin - and perhaps more significantly - embarrassed himself by his own conduct, it has suddenly become necessary for anyone who ever anointed Crosby as "The Next One" to vilify Ovechkin. The NHL thought Sid the Skid was the more marketable player, probably because he speaks English fluently. But what is happening is, the league and the fans have finally come to realize that Ovechkin IS what the league needs... a shot of adrenaline. He brings freshness and vitality to the league, and is a breath of fresh air to fan’s everywhere. While Cherry one has to accept that Don Cherry knows a lot about hockey, it also needs to be realized that Ovechkin’s type of hockey is what is selling these days. People watch hockey night in Canada to watch Don Cherry talk about something the only way Don Cherry can, and people sellout the Verizon Center to watch the Great Eight do his thing.
The best player in the world shouldn’t be a candidate for humiliation over something as petty as goal celebrations, simply because he is Russian, and not Canadian. The racism in the league, towards Europeans, is stupid, and has to stop. Gone are the day’s of the “CANADIAN WAY”--the game is international, and some of the leagues greatest players are coming from overseas. It is a fact that is best accepted now. In the words of Al Koken, “just because you’re not born in Moosejaw, but in Moscow, doesn’t make you a showboat.”
So Don Cherry, if you don’t like Ovechkin’s goal celebrations, there is a simple solution.
Stop him from scoring.
Good luck with that.

(I couldn't get the video to upload, so here is a link to it. )

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sid the Kid

The Calder race may have been long ago, but the battle between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby lives on…actually, today’s NHL thrives on it. Well…maybe they thrive a little more on the Crosby side, since the entire NHL has jumped on the Sid the Kid bandwagon. The league has done nothing but relentlessly promote Crosby, almost to the exclusion of all the other players in the league. Think about it, how many more Crosby commercials do you see compared to anyone else in the league?
The NHL has a lot invested in Sid the Kid. So much invested in fact, that if the Penguins do not make the playoffs this year, it will be an outstanding disappointment. Sid the Kid could not secure a Stanley Cup last year, and this year Sidney the Savior can not even manage to get into the playoffs. Currently in 10th place, the Penguins would not make the playoffs if the season ended today. The NHL may have something to say about that. Everyone has noticed the terrible refereeing as of late, but in a recent game against the Washington Capitals, referee’s Don Koharski and Paul Devorski made at least eighteen BLATANT miscalls—all to the benefit of the Pens; a topic that was hotly discussed on the 1500AM post-game show for at least an hour. Maybe the league is not lending Sidney and his floundering Penguins a helping hand, but if that is the case, they should check up on the ref situation.
The refereeing may be giving Crosby freedom, but many of the leagues players are not cutting him any slack. Take Ovie for example. Also during the Capitals game, Sidney was caught in a verbal exchange at the Capitals bench, in which Ovechkin dismissed him with the wave of a hand. Sid the immature Kid kept it up all night, just as he has for the better part of the season; completely turning off many NHL fans.
In doing research for this article, I interviewed both non-hockey fans, and hockey fans. The responses can be summed up as follows:
#1) The non-NHL viewers knew of Sidney because of the NHL’s constant promotions; they knew much less about Alexander Ovechkin. “I think that if I lived on the west coast, not in Canada, but in California or something, then I probably would have no idea about Ovechkin,” said Max Schechter. “I don’t follow hockey, but most of the hockey promotions I have seen have been about Crosby.”
#2) The NHL fans are discouraged with Crosby’s antics. (That view may be entirely due to the fact that I live in Ovie territory). Hockey is becoming a top sport in North America, and many look to it for a source of entertainment. But honestly, his whining is a complete turnoff to non-pens fans because it takes away from the great player that he really is. “He’s a crybaby,” said Carl Endres, when asked about his opinion of Sidney.
How is this good promotion of the NHL? When one of the top player’s in the league makes a show of complaining on the ice every game? Also, how is the promotion of ONE player good for the NHL? They should be profiling many players, in order to show the amount of talent that the league has.
Furthermore, it boggles my mind that since the league has become all for promoting the entertainment side of hockey, that they do not promote Ovechkin more. Crosby seems to skate his way through everything, holding himself at a distance from others (including his teammates), and not showing us, the fans, any of the passion that a player like Ovechkin presents. Obviously Sidney does not care for enthusiastic goal celebrations (so why he has started doing them, I have no idea), but that is what it takes to sell the game these days.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Green Day

Mike Green made a spot for himself in the NHL history books by becoming the first defenseman to score goals in eight consecutive games. Green passed up Mike O’Connell of Boston (7 goal game streak) in 1984. Green now not only has control of this record, but he is currently also the highest scoring defenseman in the league, with 22 goals.
His record breaking goal was on a Washington power play, and came with 5:33 left in the second period. Green needs only one more power play goal in order to tie Scott Steven’s franchise record.
Green has really come into his own the past two seasons, both on and off of the ice. Leading the league in goals by a defenseman, Green’s plus 27 is tied for second in the league and his 50 is the highest among NHL blue liners.
On the ice, Green has become one of the most exciting young players in the game, reminiscent of stars like Paul Coffey. His speed and scoring attribute to his hardworking style of play. His speed allows him to cut down on odd number opportunities. And if he continues to put up such grand numbers, he will certainly earn himself a Norris nomination.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fatal Wrist Injury?

A long list of injuries add to the resume of Chris Clark. A known scorer, hard player and gritty offender, Clark is now out for the season. The captain has been watching from the sidelines for a good majority of the past two seasons. Now the captain will finish out a third season off the ice; he prepared for a mid-season wrist surgery last week. His newest injury will keep him out at least until the playoffs.
While injuries are beneficial to no one, they are particularly unhelpful to Clark and his Capitals. As of late, new young talent has flooded the roster, gently filling Clark's place. As the team develops without their captain, it makes it harder for him to jump back into the line-up. His rusting skills have to catch up with the fresh, practised talent, which is difficult, given the amount of time he spends on injured reserve. I must say it is saddening to see Bruce Boudreau list him as a healthy scratch, simply because his play is stagnant.
So therefore, the question becomes what should be done with him? There is no question about Clark's commitment (if he could be playing, he would) or skill (he made it to the NHL didn't he?), the question is does he still belong in Washington.
Loyalty to Clark as a Capital makes me want to keep him, but common sense says no. What good is a player who is never in the line-up? Great captain or no, Clark is not doing his team any favors on the sidelines. With such a full roster both in Washington and Hershey, it is hard to find a spot for an injury plagued player.
What the Capitals will do remains in question. It is clear that Clark's captaincy is not, and never was, an issue. The team loves and respects him, as do management and the fans. I don't believe that the team would ever consider taking the "C" away from him, even though they have a ready captain in Ovechkin. But if he can do no more to aide his team, then the Capitals may look for a trade to help advance them in their Stanley Cup chase.