Archive | February, 2011

Outdoor hockey, on thin ice?

21 Feb

Outdoor hockey has taken a puck to the crotch following the Heritage Classic in Calgary.

Instead of praising the fun and tradition of the game, as has happened in past al fresco forays, several reporters are stuck on the cons – and probably still, to their frozen seats.

Look we understand: it’s difficult to be perky about outdoor hockey when freezing your butt off. Then again, when was the last time reporters sat in the bleachers, 1919?

Criticism covered the bitter cold winds, chipped ice and the tennis-ball like puck. Not to mention the Calgary Flames flamboyant vintage uniforms which offended more than a few. Hey, the fans seemed to enjoy it game in technicolor.

David Stubbs of The Vancouver Sun wrote:

“The temperatures were so cold, in fact, that the McMahon sheet was little better than playground quality, requiring monotonous work by repair crews and manual flooding between periods, Zamboni machines kept off for fear they’d crack the surface.”

Pierre LeBrun of ESPN wrote:

“Those 41,022 freezing fans at McMahon Stadium on Sunday may have attended the sporting event of their lives. The question now for the NHL: How many more towns will have that feeling before the thrill is gone?”

Randy Sportak of The Calgary Sun wrote:

“Was it a classic? Not really. The calibre of play was more akin to the level you’d see on ESPN Classic.”

Yes, ice conditions weren’t stellar, and okay, it was minus-8.6C at puck drop. But this was hardly premised as a hockey clinic. It was always a clever marketing activity – a brilliant way to pique the interest of new and fair-weather fans – no pun intended.

And come on, how good are those jerseys?

New York’s in a Carmelo state of mind

18 Feb

So Carmelo wants to be a Knick.

The Knicks want high-scoring small forward – preferably one that wears a headband.

And coincidently, the Nuggets wants to ship a dissatisfied star and an ageing point guard for some high quality players.

All of the stars are aligning.

Problem is, Denver’s playing hardball and their price is much too high. The New York Times reports that the Nuggets want Raymond Felton, Landry Fields, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari for Melo and Chauncey Billups. Sheesh. Should the Knicks throw in Jerry Seinfeld, Mr Met and a sandwich from Katz’s deli just to even it up a little more?

Surely, New York is not about gut its team for a single star.

Or is it?

There are so many reasons team president Donnie Walsh and the Knicks should reject such a proposal. Chief among them is that they’ll lose the young nucleus of their team which has provided an energy and scoring punch the club has lacked for years.

Let’s face it, sharp-shooting bigs don’t exactly grow on trees like they once did, and Danilo Gallinari is one of the sharpest marksmen on the NBA court today. His recent 17-point performance against Atlanta, which saw him hit 5 of 12 from the field, 3 of 8 from 3-point range and 4 of 4 from the charity stripe, is testament to that. And in case you’re making notes, he also hauled in 9 boards that night.

Then there’s Fields, who is such a well-rounded player for a rookie that it seems ludicrous to let him go. The lively Fields can do it all, including rebound. Wouldn’t you be reluctant to see this kind of potential walk out the door?

But, this is New York, where nothing is done by inches. It only took a year to build the Empire State Building and at great sacrifice too. Why do even dare question how long it’ll take the Knicks to build a contender again? If they can acquire the missing champion-caliber piece, smart money says they’ll do it.

But perhaps fueling the Knicks’ decision-making process even more than Carmelo’s stats is his star power. Despite playing above .500 ball and sitting in sixth in the Easter Conference, the Blue and Orange still lack pizazz. Sure, they have their $100-million-center-piece, Amar’e Stoudemire, who to his credit has lifted his scoring further of late.

But Stoudemire, even by Coach Mike D’Antoni’s assessment, is a finisher. And while he’s one of the best in the game at that, he isn’t Patrick Ewing. He might not even be Latrell Sprewell.

Madison Square Garden and the historic Knickerbockers need a Ewing-sized superstar to carry the legacy forward. And it seems many in the Big Apple are unsure Stoudemire fulfills that duty. He needs help.

That’s why we’re hearing the “We want Melo” chants and why this saga persists. The management, the fans and the city smell a contender. They thirst for a contender. And they know that even if Melo brings just half the juice he brought to the Pepsi Center over the years, the Empire State will not only be quenched, but actually, really start believing in its basketball team again.

Top football technology

15 Feb

With the NFL season done and dusted, there’s time to get a little retrospective.

So let’s talk football technology.

Style + Tech For Men recently posted its Top 11 Highest-scoring Advancements in Super Bowl Technology. It’s a good list, with my favorite being No. 2, Supervision, a system of multiple high-speed cameras.

These cameras provide us football nuts with high-def, ultra-slow-motion replays, which have revolutionized watching the pro game in particular. Just think about David Tyree’s legendary helmet catch, or Santonio Holmes game-winning-back-of-the-end-zone-grab. Neither would have reached such heights without the advent of super on-field shots.

The best replay moments certainly occur, however, when your favorite back is tearing up the field, arms pumping, legs churning, ball tucked high and tight. Slow-mo poetry.

Tampa Bay goes vintage

15 Feb

New Lightning jersey

The Tampa Bay Lightning recently unveiled its new look to more mixed reviews than a Super Bowl anthem singing.

Numerous news sites and blogs have run fan polls about the new flash digs, with those in favor hardly overwhelming the detractors.

I find this strange because the new jersey is all class. I’m no Armani but I don’t know how you could conjure something better – even with Giorgio himself leading the design team. Some fans are tough to please I guess.

The two-tone uniforms with simplified lightning bolt logo hark back to another era. And that can only be a good thing. Let’s face it, the old jersey was caught in that early 90s design vortex that has hurt so many hockey team identities – as well as teen idols like Luke Perry and various R&B stars.

General Manager Steve Yzerman and the club consulted strategic brand development firm SME to develop the new brand, with an emphasis on a “classic” and “iconic” look.

And I think they succeeded. The blue and white incarnation is reminiscent of classic Maple Leafs uniforms, which hopefully for Tampa’s sake, inspires classic Leafs-like victories.