Saturday, June 25, 2011

NHL Draft weekend

Just spent two terrific days on the floor of the Xcel Energy Center, working the NHL's 2011 Entry Draft. There are lots of great perks to working on the X's Guest Services staff, but this weekend was one of the best non-game experiences ever.

For a hockey nerd like me, being at the NHL Draft is like attending the Academy Awards. Except that instead of saying things like, "Look, there's Tom Cruise" or "Look, there's Sharon Stone" we said things like "Look, there's Mike Babcock....Hey, there's Bobby Clarke...Wow, that's Cam Neely." All the coaches we see standing behind benches and the GMs we see sitting in the press box during a long winter with the NHL Center Ice package are right there in the flesh!

Just a partial list of sightings (and yes, I feel like a stupid teenage groupie...I've gotten over it and so should you):

Todd McClellan
Claude Julien
Chuck Fletcher
Craig Leipold
Steve Yzerman
Dave Tippett
Mike Ricci
Bobby Clarke
Paul Holmgren
Ken Holland
Joel Quenneville
Dan Bylsma
Barry Trotz
Pierre McGuire
Brian Murray
Steve Tambellini
Glen Sather
Mike Babcock
Lou Lamoriello
Brian Burke
Cam Neely
Pierre Mondou
and the list goes on....

Part of my job was checking everyone's credentials, making sure they weren't on the floor without the appropriate pass. So when a person approached, instead of looking at their face like you normally would, I would first glance at their torso, to see if they had the proper credential hanging around their neck. Early on the first day, a man moved into the periphery of my vision, and the first thing I noticed was that he wasn't wearing a credential. The second thing I noticed was that he was sort of wandering aimlessly, just looking around and not talking to anyone and looking as though he might not belong there. I was about to step forward and ask if I could help him find his proper spot. That's when I focused on the face, made eye contact and realized it was NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Stepping back from the brink of a major faux pas, I managed to say "Commissioner, we're honored to have you here," and got a "Thank you, glad to be here," in return.

My next contact came when Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma came over near my post and had a conversation with a couple of fellows. When he finished, he turned around, paused, and made eye contact. I've always felt a little kinship with Bylsma because that "sma" at the end of his name - just like Droogsma - means we both have Dutch heritage. Normally in my job, we try to stay out of conversations in these situations, but I decided to make an exception and dive in. I stuck out my hand and said, "Nice to meet you coach. My last name is Droogsma, and it's always nice to see another Dutch boy do well." He lit right up! We ended up having a couple minutes of conversation about the Penguins' injury-filled season, our Dutch background and his recent Adams award as coach of the year. After a moment a woman from the Penguins PR department came over to take him to an interview, and I said, "Sorry, didn't mean to take your time." He said, "No, anytime for a Dutchman," and then turned to the PR woman and said, "You know what they say about the Dutch, don't you?" She said no and he told the oldest Dutch joke in the book: "If you're not Dutch, you're not much." A good laugh, another handshake and he was on his way.

A short time later my friend Gary Harker came by. Gary scouts the Upper Midwest for the Toronto Maple Leafs and is a great guy to talk hockey with. I've mentioned him before in this blog, and I almost always learn something when I have a conversation with him. We were discussing various draft prospects, the atmosphere in the X and making a little small talk when he suddenly asked, "Have you ever met George Armstrong?"

George Armstrong's claim to fame is that he was captain of the Maple Leafs when they won their last Stanley Cup in 1967. He played 21 years for Toronto, and was captain for 11 of them. He still scouts for the Leafs, and he and Gary sit next to each other at the Leafs' draft table. Gary brought him over to meet me.

This was exciting. I started thinking about some of the great players Armstrong had played with: Frank Mahovlich, Dave Keon, Johnny Bower, etc., etc. After introductions, I decided to ask about Bower, a goaltender I admired as a kid, and who is famous for having lied about his age to get into the Canadian Army as a 16-year-old and subsequently serving in Europe. (I wrote about Bower a couple years ago here.) As soon as I asked about Bower, I knew I had started the conversation right:

"Johnny and I were roommates for 11 years," Armstrong said, and went on to reminisce about the four Stanley Cups they won together, various road trip escapades and other stories. Then I wanted to ask about another former Maple Leafs player, and said, "You must have overlapped with Tim Horton at some point, didn't you?" Horton is the former Leafs and Buffalo Sabres defenseman who founded the doughnut chain that bears his name, and who was killed in a car accident while still playing in the NHL. When I asked about him, Armstrong's demeanor got a little more serious.

"Timmy and I played in the minors together and we went to the Leafs together," he said. "When I got married, Timmy was the only hockey player in the wedding." He then went on to share stories about Horton's personality, character and business sense.

We also had a chat about Dave Keon, who succeeded Armstrong as Leafs' captain. I told him I had watched Keon later play as a Minnesota Fighting Saint in a building (the old St. Paul Civic Center) that had stood right where we were now standing, and he told me about the estrangement between Keon and the Maple Leafs organization. We talked about old goalies, old coaches, and he went on and on for about 15 or 20 minutes.

(Part of Armstrong's charm - at least I found it charming - is that he's absolutely unable to speak without being amazingly profane. You have to imagine every sentence I've quoted here as being sprinkled with f-bombs about every fifth word. It's an all-purpose noun, verb and adjective for him, and Harker said he's that way all the time. It just comes naturally and, oddly, doesn't sound out of place.)

The rest of the weekend was a great treat, watching the drama surrounding the reactions of all these 18-year-olds as they had the moment they've dreamed about most of their lives; Hearing their name called at an NHL Draft. They would stand up, hug their dad, moms, other relatives, etc. who were there to share the big moment.

My favorite reaction came when the Montreal Canadiens chose a young man name Nathan Beaulieu. He had been projected by some to go among the top 10 or so after an outstanding career in Quebec junior hockey, but he fell to the 17th spot before Montreal selected him. He went to hug his mother, and she just erupted in tears. It was like she had been holding in all the pressure that had been building on her son as he slid down the board, and now, all of a sudden, her baby boy had not only been chosen, but had been chosen by the Canadiens, and she just couldn't keep the emotions bottled up anymore. He gave her a huge hug, and I think it's that image I'll remember the longest from a memorable weekend.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Off to the draft

The NHL Entry Draft takes place Friday and Saturday, and for the past couple of years I've live-blogged it (though last year's blog was interrupted by a thunderstorm that took out my DirecTV signal).

This year, however, the Draft takes place at our very own Xcel Energy Center, which means I'll be up there working the next two days. I've been told I'll be working at the Media stage on the main floor, so if you're watching (6 p.m. Central time on Versus Friday, 10 a.m. Saturday on NHL Network) you just might see me.

Important weekend for the Wild. Rumors abound that Brent Burns may be traded, and if you're going to trade someone with that kind of talent, you better get something pretty strong in return.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What planet is he living on?

Here's what Obama had to say today about the economy:

"And so I'm extraordinarily proud of the economic record that we were able to produce over the first two and a half years..."


Birth of a new Wild blog

My oldest son, Travis, follows the Wild as closely as I do, and has a remarkable talent for writing. Sadly, he's too "hip" for me to follow a lot of his writing, which tends to gravitate towards music I've never heard of.

He has now, however, started a blog that will focus on the Minnesota Wild and the NHL, and I encourage you to take a look at his first couple of offerings at

I'm not sure what this "Tumblr" thing is yet, but it appears to be another blogging template, similar to the Blogger setup that I use here. But if you're a hockey fan, I think you'll find it worthwhile to stop by Trav's blog from time to time.

Monday, June 20, 2011

NBC gets caught with hand in cookie jar

One of the annual treats of Father's Day is watching the last day of the U.S. Open golf tournament. NBC's Johnny Miller is one of golf's best commentators and the coverage is always excellent.

Today - with the Open being played outside Washington, D.C. - they opened their coverage with an attempt at patriotism, by showing the Pledge of Allegiance in a series of clips, with each group saying a few words. However, after the clip of people saying, "One nation," they went immediately to a clip of people saying "indivisible."

Of course, they edited out the words, "Under God."

The outrage directed at NBC must have been loud and immediate, because a short time later, anchor announcer Dan Hicks was forced to read a statement saying, “We began our coverage of this final round just about three hours ago and when we did it was our intent to begin the coverage of this U.S. Open Championship with a feature that captured the patriotism of our national championship being held in our nation’s capital for the third time. Regrettably, a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance that was in that feature was edited out. It was not done to upset anyone and we’d like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it.”

It seems like a small matter, but in fact it's a great insight into the mindset of media elites. It's easy to imagine a group sitting around an NBC editing room, and someone says, "You know, let's just take out that 'under God' part so we don't offend anyone." And because the liberals who dominate the media share similar mindsets, no one in the room even thought to say, "Um, aren't we going to offend millions of people who believe in God and think He should be recognized when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance?"

I've been part of the media, and I know the mindset. And even if someone thought it, they wouldn't dare say it because their colleagues would consider them some kind of backwoods Bible-thumping rube.

Pounded by phone calls, NBC tried the old "We apologize to anyone who was offended," defense, but the fact is, they did what they believed was right when they edited out the words.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Which is worse: The stench of defeat, or the taste of tear gas?

It's probably a stretch to call Vancouver the epicenter of evil in the world, when there are cities like Tehran, Pyongyang, Beijing and Northfield that can compete for the title, but the little Canuckers really made a bid for the top spot Wednesday night.

First, their hockey team completed an epic collapse in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals, losing 4-0 to the Boston Bruins.

(The Bruins, by the way, were picked to win the Cup back in April here, by a pretty astute blogger. Read down to the last paragraph. I'm just sayin'....)

While the soulless Canucks stretched it out to seven games, it was pretty obvious Boston was a better team. After Vancouver opened the series by sneaking out a pair of one-goal wins, the Bruins won four of the last five games by a combined score of 21-4. The series may have turned in Game Three, when Canuck defenseman Aaron Rome took a typical Vancouver cheap shot and sent Boston's Nathan Horton to the hospital with a concussion. Horton was unable to return, and the same can be said for Rome, who received the longest suspension (four games) in the history of the Cup Finals. From that point on, the Bruins pretty much dominated.

Then, after seeing their team lose 4-0 Wednesday, the always-classy Canuck fans stood in their arena and booed the presentation of the Stanley Cup. Some Canadians I heard on ESPN Radio were quick to claim they were only booing NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, but that's a flat-out lie. After Bettman handed the Conn Smythe Trophy (for playoff MVP) to Boston's Tim Thomas, and after he then handed the Cup to captain Zdeno Chara, they kept right on booing as the Bruins enjoyed the traditional skate around the rink. It was a pathetic, classless display.

(I think I have a little extra credibility on this subject, because oldest son Travis and I were in Met Center in 1991 when the Pittsburgh Penguins hammered the North Stars to clinch the Stanley Cup. We stayed in our seats, watched the presentation, and applauded Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and the others as they paraded the Cup around our rink. The fans at the Met had an appreciation for the history of the Cup, and for what we had just witnessed.)

At the same time, according to Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun, Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini was "directing the same coarse, four-letter obscenity repeatedly at reporters" trying to interview him in the locker room.

Not content with making asses of themselves IN the building, the Canuckleheads went outside and began torching their own city. Now, I think the question of whether Vancouver SHOULD be trashed is a fair one, and worthy of discussion, but it's pretty unusual for the natives to begin the work themselves.

Above and below are some nice photos from the Vancouver Sun, showing the fans tipping over a car, celebrating the burning of a pickup and generally behaving like savages. Stores were looted, riot police were brought in, tear gas was put to its intended use. Vancouver General Hospital declared a "Code Orange" and began triage on the wounded. Perhaps someday order will be restored.

I'm actually kind of glad to see it, because some people think I've been too harsh on Vancouver and Satan's Team over the years. I think Wednesday night demonstrated that I've actually been too kind to this pile of jerks.

Stay classy, Vancouver.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Picture of the day

Tens of thousands of fans gathered in the streets of Vancouver Monday night, expecting their group of thugs, divers and misfits to win the Stanley Cup. Instead, we got this wonderful picture. Let's hope for a similar photo on Wednesday night.

Total cop-out, I realize, but still.....

I have to admit that I just don't have the ability to adequately summarize this year's Stanley Cup Final, now headed for a Game Seven Wednesday night in Hell, excuse me, Vancouver. Boston's 5-2 beatdown tonight (a 4-0 lead in less than 10 minutes) was spectacular, and this has easily been the most entertaining Final of the past decade.

But as I said, I'm not enough of a writer to do it justice, and so I'm going to turn it over to one of the writers I admire most, Bill Simmons of Simmons - a.k.a. The Sports Guy - is such a talented writer that I'm now reading his 800-page book about basketball for the third time, and I don't even like basketball.

He admits that he's being a front-runner, but he took his Dad to Game Four of the Finals, and wrote a spectacular column about the evening, and about his relationship with hockey. It's a great read, and you can see it all by clicking here. Enjoy.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Score one for the California education system

This fun photo, courtesy of the New York Post, is of an obscure actress named Q'orianka Kilcher, who apparently portrayed Pocahontas some years ago in a movie.

Perhaps with a little more time spent in English class, and a little less time learning about the evils of corporations, she would have been able to learn how to spell the word "destruction."

What an absolute poster child for the American left.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Two words: Suh-weet

Spent a fabulous evening last night with oldest son Travis, enjoying the great food at Rudolph's at Franklin and Lyndale, while watching the Bruins lay an 8-1 savage beating on the soulless Vancouver Canucks. It's a long way from over, but Boston gave us hope tonight that evil can be stopped. Go get 'em, B's!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Reagan at Normandy

It was 27 years ago today that Ronald Reagan spoke at Normandy, in ceremonies marking the 40th anniversary of D-Day. If your kids don't know about the "boys of Pointe Du Hoc" - and they might not, given educators who would rather espouse the values of "diversity" or push the myth of global warming - make them watch the video, and tell them the story. June 6, 1944 might be America's greatest moment, and Reagan was up to the challenge of giving these men the honor they deserved.

Friday, June 3, 2011

John Edwards was right

It turns out that there really ARE "two Americas." There's one America in which millionaires get billionaire friends to write six-figure checks to try to hide their mistress and child from their dying wife, and then there's everybody else.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

When Political Correctness trumps reality

The Minnesota Lynx (that's a professional women's basketball team, in case you didn't know) begin their season this week, and like about four million other Minnesotans, I don't care.

The only reason I bring this up is because it highlights just one more reason why you shouldn't trust the mainstream media.

The Lynx play in something called the WNBA, which has been around for about 15 years and has never turned a nickel of profit. Let me stipulate right up front that the women of the WNBA are great athletes. They are among the best in the world at what they do, and I admire any athlete that puts in the work needed to reach the pinnacle of their sport.

What I do NOT admire, however, is the way the media tries to shove the WNBA down our throat by publicizing something that clearly has not earned publicity. And there is hardly a worse offender than Minnesota's own Star-Tribune newspaper.

In order to make my point, consider another sport I don't really care about: Indoor lacrosse. I don't care about outdoor lacrosse either, but the comparison is relevant here because indoor lacrosse - like women's basketball - is also played professionally, in a league that spans North America like the WNBA does, and Minnesota has a franchise, known as the Minnesota Swarm.

The Swarm plays its home games at the Xcel Energy Center, home of the Minnesota Wild. They have been around for six seasons, and over those six seasons they have had an average attendance of 10,232 fans.

During those same six seasons, the Lynx - playing in the Target Center in Minneapolis - have had average attendance of 7,050.

I'm no math whiz, but I'm pretty sure that computes to the Swarm having an average crowd that is 45% larger than the average Lynx crowd.

Now, again, I'm not trying to sell you on the idea that you should all be spending Saturday nights watching indoor lacrosse. Again, the players are amazing athletes, and they play a brutal, physical game, but I don't find the sport particularly interesting. I attended one game, and didn't care for it. I waited two years, and went to another one, thinking I should give it a fair shake. I left before it was over, and I've pretty much written it off as unwatchable, at least by me.

The point of this little rant is to consider how the Star-Tribune treats each sport. If you go to the Strib's web site you will find about a dozen articles and blog posts about the Lynx from that past week or so. The Lynx even have their own "tab" on the sports page, alongside the Twins, Vikings, Wild, Timberwolves and Gophers. "Lynx: Opener only two days away" is one headline, "Lynx tabbed most improved team" reads another. Throughout the season, you'll see headlines on the front page of the Strib web site that say things like, "Lynx lose again," or "Lynx edge Los Angeles," given the sort of placement that would lead you to believe someone cared about the results.

By contrast, you could read the Star-Tribune all year and not know the Swarm existed. On April 2 of this year, the Swarm won a home game in front of more than 10,000 fans to clinch a playoff berth. The next days Star-Tribune covered the event with a 42-word summary that was buried at the bottom of an "area round-up" story, BELOW longer blurbs about Gopher women's track and softball.

The point: Newspapers love to tell us that they cover things based on their importance to the community, or their newsworthiness. Over the years I've seen tons of news conferences that aren't covered because "nobody cares about this story," or some such reason. If the Star-Tribune was really making coverage decisions based on what their readers care about, it seems they should be devoting about 50% more coverage to the Swarm than the Lynx.

So why don't they? Oh, that's right, the players on the Lynx are WOMEN. And according to the kinds of folks that run the Strib, women are oppressed in American society. Oh, maybe not as oppressed as in, say, Iran or Saudi Arabia, but oppressed nonetheless. They are victims, and as such, they've earned preferential treatment and coddling by the media. Because of their victimhood, they can't be judged by the same standards as everyone else, and so institutions like the Star-Tribune have to change the rules to help them out.

In truth, it's condescending and it belittles women athletes. It's telling them, "You're not good enough to earn your spot in the sports marketplace, so we'll give you extra help based on your gender." To treat them differently, rather than letting them compete in the marketplace along with everyone else, is the most destructive kind of discrimination, and we'll see it practiced regularly in the Star-Tribune from now until whenever the WNBA season fades away.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Stanley Cup Finals begin

It's been 17 years since the forces of evil in the universe have been able to harness all their powers of darkness and deliver the Vancouver Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals. Fortunately, in 1994, Mark Messier and the New York Rangers were on hand to preserve order and justice, and send the Canucks back to the underworld.

Much like Germany in the 1930s, however, the Canucks have returned in a more vicious and even less appealing form. Led by the Sedin sisters - Danielle and Henrietta - Satan's team has found its way back to the finals, in part because of a blown icing call in the last game of the Western Conference finals that let them get up off the mat and win on a fluke goal in double overtime.

Standing between civilization and a Canucks victory: The Boston Bruins, who I picked as the Cup winners here, about seven weeks ago. The Bruins are a franchise with a proud history, an Original Six team, and a club that counts Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Gerry Cheevers, Cam Neely, Eddie Shore and Ray Bourque among its alumni. The current club is led by 6-foot-7 defenseman Zdeno Chara, and 37-year-old goalie Tim Thomas. They've survived two Game Sevens in this year's playoffs, defeating Montreal in the first round, and topping Tampa Bay 1-0 in the Eastern Finals.

There is a long line of evidence - the fall of the Twin Towers, the Packers Super Bowl wins, Ted Kennedy surviving Chappaquiddick, Titanic (both the ship and the movie), Madonna's career, the making of Star Wars Episode 1, the Obama presidency - that shows us that once in a while, the bad guys win. For 40 consecutive seasons, however, we've been able to watch the Stanley Cup be presented to a team NOT from Vancouver.

If the Bruins can't make it 41, there may be no hope for the future. Does anyone really want to live in a world with "Vancouver Canucks - Stanley Cup Champions" t-shirts? Anyone?

Come on, B's, all the members of decent society are rooting for you.