Thursday, February 26, 2009

I Gotta Get Some Sleep

Tuesday night : Capitals vs. Flyers (and subsequent soul searching, asking myself "why did I want to go that game again?)

Wednesday night : Hockey n' Heels cocktail party in Arlington

Tonight : Capitals vs. Thrashers

Can't say I'm not doing my part to stimulate the economy! :)


Front Page was the site of the Hockey n' Heels cocktail party last night. I left myself ninety minutes to get to Arlington from Gaithersburg, and it only took thirty, so I killed some time at Ballston Common Mall before stopping by the bar at 5:30. After checking in, and wandering around a little bit, I ordered a beer at the bar, and saw someone else from the "purple group" from Saturday's event. We chatted a while, and some of her friends came by, then another "purple" walked by and said, "Hey, you were in my group on Saturday! My husband loved your Nylander comment!*"

Meaghan was there by herself too, and like me, felt kind of weird about it. So, we ended up hanging out for the evening, which was fun. Leslie the Hockey Mom made it as well.

From where we were standing by the bar, we could see the players outside when they arrived and were being "prepped" by the event coordinators. Several other women started speculating who all was outside, so I looked, and rattled off, "Eric Fehr, Michal Neuvirth, Milan Jurcina, and Staffan Kronwall." There was some argument over whether it really was Kronwall or if it was Sergei Fedorov, and it was sort of hard to tell, since there was a glare from a bright light, but his hair didn't look nearly long enough to be Fedorov. Then we see Nicklas Backstrom walk up (talk about needing a hair cut).


The players were kind of scattered around the bar, and various lengths of lines formed in order to get pictures and autographs with them. It was funny-yet-sad how many remarks I heard like, "Who was that?" after a picture was taken.

David Steckel showed up about ten minutes after the others, and a lot of people didn't even see him walk in. Poor Kronwall -- I think a lot of the attendees didn't know who he was. He was very quiet, too. I asked him if he thought he was going to play tonight against Atlanta, and he said he hoped to, but he probably wouldn't know until game time. I said, "So, does Boudreau just flip a coin?" He laughed.

Jurcina and Neuvirth seemed joined at the hip for the evening. When Meaghan and I talked to them, she asked Jurcina about good Eastern European beers. He recommended Pilsner Urquell, but Neuvirth made a face and said he didn't think it was very good at all. I asked Jurcina why he and Neuvirth were hanging out together, and he said it was because "We speak same language." I remembered that Jurcina was from Slovakia and Neuvirth is Czech, and Jurcina seemed impressed that I knew that. Considering I'd heard a woman ask him if he was from "Czechoslovakia", maybe it was impressive that I at least knew they were separate countries.

Steckel and Fehr were both pretty cool. I knew Steckel was crazy tall, but I seriously only came up to his shoulder even though I was wearing three-inch heels. Fehr was taller than I realized. I asked Fehr if he subscribed to the Laich theory on goalscoring, and when he looked quizzical, I explained, "You know, 'if you want bread, go to the bakery...'?" He laughed then, and said, "Oh, yeah! And one of these days, they are all going to start going in!"

So, I ended up staying for the whole thing, and then Gabe came by later on and I didn't leave until almost 10:30. So much for an early night. It was more fun than I thought it would be, but only because I met some new friends through the Hockey n' Heels, which I guess is being morphed into the new Club Scarlet.

And next up... Thrashers. Pictures later.

*(the Nylander comment, btw, was a jibe about his propensity towards spin-o-rama moves. During the equipment session on Saturday, one of Nylander's skates was being passed around, and I remarked something to the effect of, "Are you sure this is Nylander's? It doesn't have a toe pick.")

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Being Bullied

complacency : \-sən(t)-sē\, noun; self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies
from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

See also : The Washington Capitals in the third period of their February 24th game versus the Philadelphia Flyers.

Everything happened so fast (just about three minutes), everyone in the stands was reeling. I guess the good news is that the power-play didn't allow Richards, Gagne or anyone else to strike shorthanded, and, in fact, the Capitals had several excellent short-handed chances.

The bad news, of course, is that if they could have followed through on any of those short-handed breakaways (Backstrom's, Steckel's or either of Laich's!), the outcome of the game likely would have been much, much different.

More impressions, and possibly some photos, later.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hockey n' Heels (without the heels and subsequent broken ankles)


Well, I went to the Hockey N' Heels event at Kettler today. I wasn't really sure what to expect, though I had hoped to get a little more insight into the strategies of the game, as the description said it, "features instructional lessons and on-ice demonstrations targeted toward the Capitals’ female audience."

But there was no skating (the first organizer email telling us to wear sneakers for the on-ice pieces was a disappointment; I'd hoped for a reminder to bring skates or to tell us that rental skates would be available). And when I got there around 12:30, there seemed to be an awful lot of women wearing jerseys and not-so-practical-to-walk-on-the-ice shoes.

Overall, it was fun, despite only 2 -- maybe 3 -- of the sessions meeting my expectations. By far the best session from my perspective was the "Film Session" with Bruce Boudreau. The man really "tells it like it is," from declaring the team's play against the Avalanche last night as "shitty," to telling us that even when Ovechkin doesn't exactly follow the plans, what is he (Boudreau) supposed to do, "bench him?" We got to see a "systems" film, showing the various components to Boudreau's play catalog. He explained how they choose the plays, based on reviewing hours of tape of an opponent, and then modifying things as the game progresses. This was by far the best of the breakout sessions, simply because I felt it did what was promised by giving excellent instruction on the game.

The equipment session was pretty cool too. Run by Dave Fitzpatrick, from the Kettler Pro Shop, and Brett Leonhardt, the Capitals web producer-turned-backup-NHL goalie, we got to see the latest in NHL-level hockey equipment. The 25 minute limit to the session, and the size of the groups really made this session less than it could have been, as I thought we'd get to see how all the pieces go together (especially the goaltender ensemble). I'm somewhat infamous for my resistance to wearing certain protective gear (....yeah... let's just say that "shin pads are for wimps" is not the smartest thing to ever come out of my mouth), and so I do have to admit it was nice to see how light-yet-strong the equipment is today. A female hockey chest protector would have been a nice piece to share with us, though, as they are constructed somewhat differently.

I did get to hold Brett's helmet and examine it close-up though. Very cool artwork too.

Q&A with Lisa Hillary (from Comcast) and Rod Langway was fun. For some reason, it was listed as "chalk talk," which I associate more with the Mazda/Chevy RevItUps, and the strategy/experiences discussion that went on at those events' versions of "chalk talk." Here, however, it was simply a question and answer period. Most of the questions revolved around what Langway thought of the current team, and he was very good about saying he really didn't think it was his place to critique these Capitals, as he and his teammates didn't like it when former players critiqued them "back in the day" (he wouldn't name names of the player(s) who would do that), and he said the style of play, and the players themselves are so different from when he played, he didn't feel qualified to comment. Interestingly, he said he didn't think that the "stars" of his team could cut it on today's team, and that some of the players on his team might even be carrying as much as 25-28% body fat (as measured by calipers)!

My question for him was whether he thought the Western Conference teams played a different style of hockey than the Eastern Conference, considering how much the Eastern Conference as a whole (not just the Capitals) has faired against them. He (and Lisa) thought it was more that they don't see each other enough during the season to get a feel for how the other teams play, not like playing other divisional teams a half-dozen times per year.

Strangely, Langway is no longer in hockey, not like some guys who go into coaching, scouting, or some other front office job. He said he's working in Richmond at a blacksmith's shop! Oh, and BTW, he really, really doesn't like Philly.

The on-ice demonstrations were the two that were the most disappointing. The "goaltending demonstration" was the first session that my group went to. One of the problems with these sessions was simply the size of the groups made it hard to hear what you were supposed to be doing when the instructions were given. The other issue with the group size was that you really couldn't get any feedback (like we were evidently supposed to be getting) from Michal Neuvirth. Lastly, it didn't help that so many puck bunnies were there simply to see the players that they held up the line for pictures and autographs. In any case, Neuvirth at least paid attention to my "form," and didn't like it, grabbing my glove hand and forcing it into the position it should be in when preparing for a shot. Boyd Gordon was shooting the "puck" (not a real puck, but a soft, foam facsimile), and I managed to prevent any of the "shots" from going in and even caught the third one.

Watching Neuvirth was kind of funny though. Something about his mannerisms (and maybe his facial hair) reminded me of my friend AJ Nealey. I wonder if Neuvirth has ever jumped over a bonfire with a BMX bike?

The other on-ice demonstration was the last break-out for the purple group. We were being kind of rushed at this point, as we needed to be done by 4PM, and it was already 3:35 when we got down to the ice from the film session. The DJ who was there from 107.3 (Chili, I think her name was) told us to just "go to the shorter line" for the shooting "practice," but most people in front of me were going to the line where Tomas Fleischmann was feeding you the puck. So, I went to the shorter line with Jeff Schultz. Dean Evason was helping out in this line too.

The point of the shooting "demonstration" was to practice a wrist shot (stick blade against the ice) and to practice a slap shot (start with the stick blade in the air, then chip down against the puck). Evason would ask which stick you wanted, then show how to do both shots, and then you'd go up to Schultz and do three shots.

So, Evason starts handing me a stick, and I go, "Left." He looks confused for a second, as evidently everyone before me has shot righty. So he gives me the other stick, and skates around to my left (he was the only one on skates, a remnant from practice), then looks at me and says, "You've done this before."

I'm kind of confused, because I don't know why he thinks that, and tell him, "Yeah, I played street hockey a long time again. Never on ice though. And this stick's about four inches too long for me."

He laughs and says, "I guess I don't need to tell you how to do this then." I told him that I used to see him play with the Whalers, and he remarked that I must have been following hockey for a long time, at which point I tell him how I saw Brett Hull playing as a rookie with the Flames. He was impressed.

I walk up to Schultz, who initially sets up the puck on the wrong side for me (see, "everyone else shot righty" above), realizes I've got a lefty stick, and then walks across in front of me. Then, he too says, "You've done this before." I tell him the same thing I told Evason. I take my wrist shot, and make it (slow release though... it's been a while), then try a slap shot, smacking the ice before the puck. My wrist doesn't like the jolt. Schultz says, "Just try another wrist shot," which I do, and I make it again. "Good," he says, "Now do the slap shot." I try it again, and do the same thing. He tells me to do something different (I can't remember what), but I did, and my last shot was about six inches wide of the net. He said I did good anyway.

Then I realized I took five shots to the others' three, and I could see some annoyed people in the line behind me. I don't feel so bad, though, as I was shooting, not just taking pictures or getting autographs like so many others.

So, overall, it was fun. I got to meet Leslie from the Musings of a Hockey Mom blog, and a couple of other cool women who weren't there just to drool over Brooks Laich or Mike Green. I kind of wish the groups were a bit smaller so there could actually be better interaction for learning and less rush at the end, or that the sessions were more geared towards people who wanted to learn more than people who wanted an autograph. Maybe have a ban on autograph requests until the end of the event? Maybe have people sign up for the breakout sessions they would like to attend in advance? I'm not sure. I'm glad I got to go, and I wish my friend Carrie could have come with me.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pride

The team Todd helps to coach, the Washington Pride, is doing well in the JWHL Challenge Cup this weekend at Kettler Iceplex. Again, it's good to see women's hockey getting some recognition, especially in this area.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Girl Power!

Girl's hockey is on the rise in Montgomery County, and my friend Todd just sent me this link to an article in the Gazette which touches on two of the girls teams that he coaches.

It's awesome that these girls have such an athletic opportunity. We've come a long way from the ground-breaking move where the Tampa Bay Lightning signed Manon Rheaume as a free agent.

Monday, February 9, 2009

in a daze...

Wow. Could the difference between Thursday night against the Kings and Saturday night against the Panthers be any greater?

I mean, I know the six of us had hit the Caps on Tap bar tour on Saturday (seven bars in three hours, this time) after spending time at the auto show earlier, but it didn't take much to see that the attitude was different, and more than anything else, the penalty kill was on Saturday night.

Thank our lucky stars it was, too. I'm still not convinced Shaone Morrisonn's hit deserved the major status and game misconduct he was awarded, but that's what was doled out, and that's what the Caps had to kill. And "kill" they did. Wow. Green with the short-handed, empty-netter. Laich without an injury. We stood nearly the entire time. And it was a thing of beauty.

Maybe the penalty killers have had their time in the shadows. Maybe now, they will shine.

In the meantime, I am still shocked over all the people who actually were taking pictures of my car, or taking pictures with my car. I mean... it's just a stock WRX, for crying out loud. With magnetics... not even real vinyl on it!

I met a ton of people during the three days (Thursday, and then part of Saturday and part of Sunday) that I was present, and it was fun to talk to some of them. To the parents who can't (or won't) control their kids, and let them run wild so that those of us in the area had to ask them (or yell at them, in some cases) to get out of the formula cars.... you really should have invested that entrance fee in a babysitter. Some of those parents are lucky they didn't end up paying for an accidentally discharged fire system, which would have made a baby sitter seem cheap.

The auto show, as usual, didn't appeal much to me personally, even though I had an exhibitor's pass this time. Yeah, GM had a ZR1 and two concept Camaros there, as well as a concept Solstice roadster, and I was like, "yawn." The only car I deigned to sit in was the Saturn Sky, and that was only for a moment. Pat did sit in a Pontiac G8; I didn't know he had been thinking about a G8 or used GTO for a daily driver.

Probably the only cars I was mildly interested in, besides the Sky Redline, were the Ford GT (only 'cause I'd driven that one), and the Fiskers were kinda cool too. The Subaru rep was a douche towards me, and if that had been my only or one of a few instances of interacting with Subaru salesmen or representatives, that would have totally turned me off of their cars. The guy could give me zero information on the STI, much less when a new model would come out. He was very standoffish after I answered his, "Are you with a dealer?" question with a, "No" (he'd seen my exhibitor pass on Thursday, and I guess he thought I was one of the dealers at first). After that, he acted like he didn't want to talk to me at all. I got more decent conversation from Gordon over at the AMG Mercedes display, who was more than eager to talk to me about performance Mercedes.

I just hope that next year, if Ian lets me bring one of my cars back, it will be a real ESP car. No, the car just had ESP magnetics on it this time around. We'll see what 2009 brings for the Camaro and the Subaru. The Camaro's buildday is just around the corner, after all....