Friday, 19 September 2008

"I Had the Last Waltz With You"

by Jes

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those ... moments will be lost in time, like rain.

Time to die"
- Roy Batty, Bladerunner.

Back in May of 2004, I got the notion to start this blog, and called it Hockey Rants because I love hockey and ranting. Simple concept, really.

I had often visited many baseball blogs (which there were/are plenty), and was tired of all the childishness of places like HFboards. I wanted a place where I could rant how I wanted, when I wanted, and on topics I wanted, without my voice being lost in the wilderness.

I didn't come into blogging with many expectations, other than having a home for some friends and family reading my blathering, and maybe getting a decent audience who appreciated thoughtful blog posts over playground arguments. I also found the whole process to be a lot of fun, and got to experience a little bit of the hockey writer's life.


4 years later, I feel the fun has disappeared for me. Perhaps the combination of writing for AOL and my own site just overloaded my positronic circuits, but blog posting now feels more of a chore and an obligation than anything else. I haven't truly enjoyed blogging very much for the past few months, and I don't see that changing in the near future.

You may have noticed I've hinted at burnout the past 1-2 months, and, like an old scented candle, I'm mostly now a mush of wax.

I look back at some of my older posts, and I realize that my content is not nearly as good as it used to be. The posts on this site used to be either funnier, contain more detailed analysis, and/or a lot of Czech/Slovak content, the latter of which I'm the most proud to have brought to the blogosphere.

Like Trevor Linden, I just don't have "it" any longer. I'm tired, worn down, and my abilities have been eroded over time. I know I'm capable of writing some good material, but it would take a lot of time and effort that I'm just not able to handle. When I think about the memorable posts I've written, most of it has not been writing over the past 6-8 months.

That is why I've decided to retire from regular hockey blogging and close the Hockey Rants chapter of my life, as well as stop writing for AOL FanHouse.

What does the future hold? Well, I like to rant and I like to write. I might change this site into an all-around Rants site (a mix of hockey, politics, pop culture, etc), or I might hook up with another blog and do some guest entries. Anyone who has any ideas is welcome to contact me. For the next while, though, I'm just taking an online vacation.


Hockey blogs have come a long way since I started. Back when I first posted here, there were maybe 10-12 hockey blogs TOTAL. There were many baseball blogs, but almost nothing revolving around our great sport. There was Hockey Pundits, Off Wing Opinion, Sharkspage, Hockey Update, and Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic. The blogroll was smaller than Steve Kariya.

Right after a lockout, there was a sudden explosion on the number of hockey blogs out there. People flocked back to the game, and also to the new type of technology and reach that blogging offered. No longer was I able to visit every hockey blog within my lunch hour.

Not only has the quantity increase substantially, but the quality as well. I used to pride myself on being near the top of the heap, but there are many other sites that just offer much more on the way of quality content than my little old site. Yes, I do feel like I've been left behind like John McCain's ex-wife.

I'm not jealous or spiteful, but rather thankful of how much great stuff is out there. No longer are we subjected to purely reading what bones the MSM throws at us, or are we limited to a few publications and websites. There is just so much out there for everyone, and, in the end, its all of us hockey fans that win.

Do I consider myself a pioneer? Yes, but just a small one. I have helped a few people start their sites out (those who asked), and I know a few people were like "I saw your site and felt I could do that, too!" I know I'm one of the true veterans out there, and am rather proud of some of the baby bloglings that grown up to be strong young sites.


As I mentioned, I didn't have a lot of expectations from starting this site. Fortunately, and most surprisingly, this site brought me a lot of opportunities and allowed me to meet many people: bloggers, fans, writers, and even an ex-girlfriend. :/

In Academy Awards fashion, minus the crappy, overrated movies *cough*No Country for Old Men*cough*, I’d like to thank and give a shout out to various people who I've met over the past 4+ years. I still intend to maintain contact with many of you, as I certainly won't stop being a hockey fan any week soon. Don't be offended if I forgot you, it just means you aren't important :) (kidding...)

In no particular order ...

  • Eric "Mac Daddy" McErlain, who scored me the gig with FanHouse and provided a lot of advice when I started out.
  • Michael "The Hockey Fanatic" Fedor, my fellow Team Slovakia member and one of the longest-serving hockey bloggers.
  • My Czech loving co-bloggers Dan (Czechmate) and Greg, who helped add another point-of-view and some extra content to Hockey Rants.
  • My girlfriend, Aurian, for obvious reasons ;)
  • Snoopyjode, who took over The Sidney Crosby Show, which I started as a social experiment, and made it into a real success.
  • Pavol Demitra, Jiri Slegr, Trevor Linden, Jan Bulis v2.1, and Tomas Plekanec for their continued awesomeness.
  • My FanHouse comrades: Wyshynski, Luongo, Lady Killer Mirtle, Ciskie, Schultzy, JD Press, Saler, Earl Sleek, Lackey, Starkey.
  • Stormbringer10, whom I haven't seen in years, for designing my site's banner.
  • The Acid Queen, who has helped me with female POV stuff and made me laugh with stories about her evil cats.
  • Alanah from Canucks and Beyond, who once took me out for dinner and helped me with some personal stuff ;), but hasn't spoken to me for ages :(
  • My sources from Czechia, Slovakia, and other parts of Europe, who wish to remain anonymous.
  • My part-time contributors ... guys who sent me in links to articles, news items, and other gossip: Southern Correspondent Wayne, Faux, 2 Man Advantage, the d00ds from Edinburgh, Big Dan, and so forth.
  • The fellows from, Misha/Schlegel, who gave me lots of good stuff before and during the lockout.
  • BBC Radio Five, for granting me my first ever radio interview. Man, was I ever nervous :/
  • Of course, those who read and comment on my side on a (semi)regular basis. A blog is nothing without eyeballs. Bloggers love comments more than anything else.
  • The MSM (Mainstream Mediots) for providing lots of fodder.
  • Tom Benjamin, another grumpy old-school blogger and the guy who actually made me look like a nice guy by sheer comparison.
  • Anyone else I've forgotten. I've met so many people and fell out of touch with so many people over the years.

    So, good-bye (for now) to all of you. I shall not disappear totally into the night, but I will step back and just allow myself to be a fan and observer, and probably comment on a few blogs which I've been neglecting to read lately due to my busy schedule.

    It's been an Al MacInnis blast!

    Regards, Jes Gőlbez
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    Wednesday, 17 September 2008

    The NHL in Europe? Oh, noes

    by Jes

    Once upon a time, I wrote a pretty length post on why I believe the NHL would never work, on a full-time basis, in Europe. Playing an exhibition game or two is one thing, but a full season? It ain't gonna work.

    This post is a response to news that the NHL is looking at expanding into Europe ... again ...

    Since I can't find my original post, I'll just have to rehash some of my old arguments. Most of my European hockey knowledge comes from the leagues I follow (Czech and Slovak), so I may not be totally right when it comes to places like Finland and Sweden.

    1. Ticket Prices
    The average ticket price for a European club hockey game translates to about 10-25$ US. Most teams charge very little for their tickets, knowing full well that a. the people simply don't have that much money to spend and b. knowing fans won't spend that much for a hockey game.

    European clubs make their money almost primarily through sponsorship. You see it on their uniforms, their arenas, and even their team names, which are often sponsored. The NHL's model of ticket-heavy revenue is the complete opposite of what happens in Europe.

    Let's face it, most hockey fans in Russia, Czechia, and Slovakia do not have that much disposable income. I know people in Germany and Sweden could afford $60 tickets, but would they really fork out that much for 30-40 games a season? I doubt it. Once the novelty wears off, you'd likely see a lot of empty seats. I can't see 15,000 people in either city wanting to invest that much on the NHL.

    Yes, I realize some European teams get over 10,000 per game, but the ticket prices, like I said, are quite low compared to the NHL.

    The fact is that many of the rich KHL owners we hear about are oil robber barons or diamond mine owners, and spend money on their hockey teams as an expensive hobby. There aren't an endless supply of these oil barons, nor are many of them likely to want to spend NHL-level prices for their own pleasure. Yes, there are oil barons owning soccer clubs, but you know they make a lot of money from tickets and merchandise.

    2. Travel
    In the future, I see travel becoming even more of an issue than it is now. Fuel prices will not go down any day soon, and environmental concerns will only cause sports leagues to look into curtailing travel somewhat.

    In my view, fuel prices will cause the NHL to start playing even more intra-conference games, and try to eliminate some of the cross-country road trips that suck up so much gas.

    Traveling to Europe? Yeah, that would count as a long road trip, and it's certainly quite pricey if you do it constantly.

    3. Rivalries
    Having an NHL team negates one of the reasons Europeans go to hockey games: The rivalries. Slavia and Sparta's "derbies" just could not be replicated by a bunch of foreigners playing some team from Toronto or Helsinki. Inter-city and regional rivalries would just not exist in the European NHL.

    4. Gary Bettman
    D00d screws up everything he touches.

    Yes, I am a pessimist. Given how the NHL's short-term thinking has caused them so many problems, and given how many American franchises are far from strong, I think expanding into Europe is something the league just will not succeed at. Let the Europeans have their league and focus on making the NHL stronger, rather than even more watered-down than it is.


    More stuff to mention

  • NHL owners have to realize that the current American economic crises is not good for the league. Obviously, people are going to have less disposable income to spend on hockey games, and/or will be afraid to spend big for fears of even more crap happening

    If you are an UFA-to-be, you might want to think about re-signing rather than try the open market. Just a thought.

    On a side rant, this whole "crisis" is thanks to your lovely US government. For far too long, the US Government has let corporations run the country, including a highly-unregulated bank and finance industry. This, together with people's horrible spending habits, means that there is a lot of "artificial" money in the market that can never be repaid, and you have China owning a monster chunk of US Currency.

    Not to sound too much like a smart ass, but I always figured the US was set for a major collapse. No country can take on that much government and personal debt without the whole thing busting up eventually. Until people stop spending money they don't have, and until banks stop lending money they don't really have, the economy is not going to get better. I'm thankful that Canada had a bit more restraint, and isn't spending billions on a bogus war to inflate the pockets of a well-off minority (Do you really think Bush wants to drive down the price of oil? Ha!). That said, when the US economy tanks, it'll hit our country hard.

    (If you know basic economics and finance, than you know that a bank can take $1 of deposits and turn that into $7-10 of loans, hence creating a level of "artificial" money)

  • Over at his Legends of Hockey Blog, author Joe Pelletier goes into Boogie Nights mode and gives us his Top 10 Hockey Moustaches of all time.

    Personally, I would have put Harold Snepsts much higher, and would have had Dave Babych on my list. Lanny as #1 is hard to dispute, though.
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    Monday, 15 September 2008

    Monday Musings: Hockey Burnout

    by Jes

    As you might have noticed, the volume of posts on this site has slowed in the past month. Besides the lack of good hockey news, I'm still feeling under the cloud of Blogger Burnout. Even if there is a good story to be had, I just don't have the spark.

    Remember the story of young Steven Legein? He's the Columbus Dinner Jackets prospect that quit the game simply because he grew tired of it. All of the practices, training camps, video sessions ... it just wasn't worth it for the young prospect.

    This type of burnout seems to be happening more these days among our nation's youth, and most of it can be traced to those parents that push their children so hard in a usually-futile attempt to land a lucrative spot in the NHL.

    From The Province:

    But the seeds of hockey burnout are now being planted long before a player reaches the junior level, and [Canadian Hockey Head Bob] Nicholson agrees it is becoming a problem.

    "It's a big concern of ours that players aren't playing soccer, baseball, lacrosse like they used to (in the summer)," he said. "We're in board meetings now looking at ways to try to make sure that they're not playing competitive hockey 12 months of the year."

    Part of the problem is overzealous hockey parents with dreams of their son becoming the next Sidney Crosby. They're the ones forking out the cash for the summer hockey programs, which aren't cheap.

    "I think a lot of it comes right from the parents," Nicholson agreed. "It almost seems like it's worse now with the 9-, 10- and 11-year-olds. The message doesn't seem to be getting down to the parents right now."
    It's not that the kids don't like playing hockey, it's that they don't like playing it ALL THE TIME, and they don't like the constant work involved. Most kids don't like practices, and most kids certainly don't want to feel pushed into training year round. It just saps the fun out of the game entirely, doesn't it?

    Think of how many kids play at the highest level of junior hockey in Canada. It's a very small percentage of the total population of hockey players in that age group. Now, think of how many of those kids will ever make the NHL. It's a very small percentage.

    The fact is that if your kid can't possibly be one of the elite players during the course of a regular season, those few extra months are not going to make him the next superstar. That extra training might help the very best young players, but it's not going to help the mass majority become THAT much better.

    Again, we must look over to Europe to see how they do things right.

    In the summer, even the pro teams never set a foot out on to the ice. In Europe, the players play soccer and tennis ... they go mountain biking, they go jogging, they have fun doing other stuff that isn't even related to hockey.

    The result? The players are happier because they get a break from the game, and the players are better trained.

    Better trained?

    Yes. Soccer and tennis, especially, develop athletic traits that aren't always worked on so well in hockey. Both sports are great for developing agility and stamina, allowing players to develop quickness on a different surface. Biking is obviously great for developing stamina and vitality, something short-burst hockey training doesn't always do.

    Having a kid play hockey 12 months a year will leave them rather 1-dimensional in terms of their athletic training, not to mention bored to tears. It's hard for any mind to develop creativity and creatively when it is constantly focusing on one type of task.

    Don Cherry is right on the money about these parents who push their kids
    Last March, on the Grapeline radio show, host Brian Williams asked Don Cherry what he thought about hockey parents whose kids missed games during spring break to go on a family vacation.

    "What do I think of them?" Cherry roared. "You want to know what I think of them? I think they're selfish rats that can't be counted on. The parents that take the kids out of the team and go on vacation are rats that can't be counted on. Can I say it any clearer?

    "That's not only my opinion," Cherry added, "but real hockey people think they're selfish rats who can't be counted on."

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    Tuesday, 9 September 2008

    Revisiting Rod Brind'Amour's Physical Edge

    by Jes

    Any hockey fan knows that Rod "The Bod" Brind'Amour is a fitness fanatic. While he's a smart 2-way centerman with good on-ice vision, his strength has always been that he's stronger and possess more stamina than just about any NHLer to ever lace on a pair of skates.

    While we know most NHLers are quite fit, Brind'Amour's elite level of fitness does contribute to the other more "mental" aspects of the game. Most players make mistakes when they are tired, and can't chase down errant pucks when they are sucking wind. Brind'Amour and others of his type make fewer mistakes and can make more plays simply because they have more gas in the tank.

    If you already didn't feel enough like a coach potato, the Globe and Mail has another article showing you how Brind'Amour works about 1,000 times harder than you, and how other players adopted similar trends to keep up with ... well, each other.

    The captain of the Carolina Hurricanes is one of the fittest players in the NHL because he refuses to stop exercising. He turned 38 over the summer and still has three years left on a contract he fully intends to play out.

    Brind'Amour typifies the character needed to be a veteran in today's NHL. In the past, some believed that longevity was best achieved by taking extensive time off over the summer to let the body heal before essentially starting anew during training camp.

    That strategy simply wouldn't work now.

    “It's definitely a year-round job,” Brind'Amour said during a recent interview. “I think the guys that approach it that way are the ones that last the longest.

    “Especially with the amount of money guys make now, if you don't treat it year-round you're foolish.”

    Chris Chelios is nearing 50, and he's still known for his insane workout schedule. There is obviously some benefit in keeping the engines running year-round.

    What is amazing is that these guys can work insanely hard year-round and their bodies just don't break down. You'd think Brind'Amour's body would just say 'ENOUGH!' and shut down from the physical onslaught.

    I think one attribute that isn't talked about enough is that some human bodies are just blessed with superior physical construction to others, like Lance Armstrong and his huge heart, or Michael Phelps and his myriad of physical features that help him swim faster (Double-jointed chest, for one).

    I know that my body produces a high amount of urea (blood/muscle waste, in simple terms) that makes it hard for my body to recover from physical activity. When I used to work 4-6 times a week, my body simply refused to put on muscle, and I would sometimes ache for days after a workout. Simply put, I could never keep up this type of schedule and expect to be in top physical condition in the long run.

    So, compare and contrast that to a guy like Rod Brind'Amour. Obviously, his body has a well-above average ability to recover from workouts and to keep up a high level of physical activity without feeling fatigued, run down, and susceptible to injuries. Compare and contrast that to NHLers who you might consider brittle?

    Brind'Amour (and Chelios) should get full credit for his work ethic, but nature obviously gave him a boost that some other humans just can't match, even if they wanted to. Perhaps there is something in their blood that can be measured, and teams looking at potential draftees might want to be on the lookout for in blood measuring or gene testing becomes the norm.

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    Monday, 8 September 2008

    Bulgarian Women Are an Easy Score!

    by Jes

    Bulgaria is not known for being a hockey power, so the fact that their women's team got blown away by Slovakia is no surprise.

    What is a surprise is just how badly they’ve been thrashed at an 2010 Olympic qualifying tournament over in Latvija.

    When my Slovakian friend sent this to my email, I thought it was a joke. Apparently not.

    Výsledky - sobota:
    Slovensko - Bulharsko 82:0 (31:0, 24:0, 27:0)
    6., 10., 12., 17., 21., 27., 30., 38., 39. a 52. Čulíková,
    5., 5., 14., 22., 31., 34., 39., 42. a 42. Veličková,
    6., 10., 21., 30., 34., 42., 57. a 58. Vargová,
    7., 7., 14., 14., 35., 45., 48. a 52. Celarová,
    16., 20., 26., 32., 51., 57., 59. a 60. Herichová,
    2., 5., 36., 37., 40., 45., 53. a 56. Gapová,
    6., 6., 24., 33. 54. a 54. Moravčíková,
    1., 4., 25., 29., 45. a 48. Karafiátová,
    9., 19., 43., 56. a 60. Kapustová,
    8., 10., 39., 53. a 59. Sroková,
    3., 17., 44. a 51. Danková,
    6., 13. a 25. Džurňáková,
    11. Konečná,
    8. Brémová

    That's right, Slovakia won 82-0. All but 2 of the Slovak women dressed for the game had at least a goal.

    The Bulgarians also lost 30-1 to Croatia and 41-0 to Italy, hardly hockey powerhouses in their own right.

    Every country has the right to try to qualify for the Olympics, but why did the Bulgarian federation even bother? Not only did they not have a chance in hell, but their women get completely humiliated.

    I wonder why the Bulgarians even bothered coming out for the final two periods. I mean, do they really expect a comeback after being down 31-0 after the first period? I guess these women have balls, or absolutely don't give a rat's ass how bad they do.

    Note to IIHF: Have some entry standards. IT makes the sport look like a joke when you have games like this. Just imagine if it was the USA or Canada instead of Slovakia? Triple digits, easily.

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    Sunday, 7 September 2008

    Weekend Wonderings: Teddy's Angry

    by Jes

    Caps owner Ted Leonsis has never been one owner who is afraid to speak his mind, and he's one of the rare sports owners who talks publicly at all. Most owners are content to sit in their country clubs sipping expensive wine and laughing at how many people they laid off this week.

    Ted? He's ANGRY!!! and he takes a nice shot as some idiot in the MSM.

    From time to time, you have heard me rail against media pundits for their lack of criticality; original thinking; creativity; and basic non-understanding of what they are writing about.

    Well here is another rant. This time against Ross McKeon and his blog post mentioning contraction of six NHL teams including the Washington Capitals.

    First, the throw away notion of shuttering six major league teams is just mean-spirited. Those six teams employ thousands and thousands of people and support tens of thousands of families. I guess Ross wants us to lay off all those people in the toughest economy ever. And those teams generate dollars for their cities in taxes and they generate dollars to hundreds and hundreds of small businesses as vendor/ suppliers. All of that would go away and the benefit and glow of a major sports team franchise would leave those cities marked as second rate for a long, long time.
    For the most part, I agree with him. However, invoking the lost jobs argument, especially from a rich multi-millionare, comes across as disgenuine. People lose jobs all the time, and they can gain jobs just the same. It's not like jobs disappear into a black hole. Besides, most people who work at sporting events are part-timers: the concession peeps, the ushers/hosts, ticket takers, etc...

    Southern Correspondant Wayne chips in: While I doubt Leonsis' claim about "thousands and thousands" losing jobs, I do see his point: a few of the new arenas are hockey only (Phoenix, Miami, Nashville, Tampa), and don't have an NBA team to fall back on (I would make the joke that Atlanta doesn't have an NBA team, either, but I'm keeping my mouth shut for now, as they were the ONLY Atlanta team to make the playoffs in a year), with millions of $ to pay in municipal bonds...


    Over at ESPN, the Worldwide Leader of Slam-Dunk clips, columnist Terry Frei opines that attendance will decrease greatly if NHL teams continue to charge higher ticket prices.

    Will they? Perhaps in some American markets. The Canadian economy is still in fairly good shape and the dollar is fine.

    The NHL has always had a risky model based on low TV ratings and high ticket prices. The NHL knows it can get away with charging its hard core of fans high ticket prices because they are willing to pay. The NHL also gets a lion's share of its revenues from ticket prices, and not ancillary sources like TV and merchandise.

    One could say the NHL has always been teetering on the ledge when it comes to its revenue strategy, and eventually the league will come to a point where the teams will be charging too much for fans to justify the expense.

    Still, it's up to each individual team to set their ticket prices, and some of the Atlanta's of the league may very well have a much lower ticket range than the Minnesota's. It may be that the Minnesota's and such subsidize the Atlanta's even more than they do now. That's the price of revenue sharing.

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    Friday, 5 September 2008

    Canucks to Retire Linden's #16

    by Jes

    Trevor Linden, the quintessential Vancouver Canuck, will have his #16 retired into the rafters of GM Place.

    No surprise there.

    The Vancouver Canucks made official Thursday what many have suspected since the final moments of last season: they're going to retire Trevor Linden's No. 16 jersey.

    The big event will take place Dec. 17 at GM Place.

    "It's going to be exciting," Linden said Thursday at a press conference to formally announce Trevor Linden Night. "I'm going to be a bit nervous but sharing that with our fans, my friends, my family and my teammates, or ex-teammates, will be very special."
    I just hope this game goes better for the Canucks than Linden's final game in the NHL, when the Flames trounced the Canucks 23-1 and the Canucks simply rolled over and played dead.

    In terms of # retirements, the Canucks are rather stingy on sweaters hanging from the rafters. After 38 years, Stan Smyl is currently the only retired number on the Canucks (#12), and there don't seem to be any great candidates in the near future. Compare that to the Buffalo Sabres, the Canucks' expansion brothers, who have SIX numbers retired.

    The only other possible candidate in the near future, given that past Canucks such as Tomas Gradin or Pavel Bure aren't even considered, would be Markus Naslund. Nazzy is the all-time leading Canucks goal and point scorer, and played almost as many games in a Canucks uniform than Smyl.

    The problem? Naslund's acrimonious departure. Naslund clearly sulked during his last two seasons with the club, and never really touched Canucks fans the same as Trev or Stanley Steamer.

    I would think that Mattias Ohlund will be a candidate some day, given his longevity and service to the club. Other than him, the clothesline is pretty bare.

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