An independent blog on the New York Islanders and the NHL by a guy from New York.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bonded By Blood

Former NHL player Wade Belak was found dead on August 31st, in a Toronto hotel.  Belak, 35, had retired earlier this year after his 15th season in the NHL playing for the Nashville Predators.  At 6’5, and 220-pounds, Belak was something of an enforcer, best known for his toughness and grit.  He was set to begin a career in broadcasting.

Rick Rypien, 27, was found dead in his home on August 15th. Rypien was known to be battling depression and had taken a leave of absence due to personal reasons.  It was reported to be his third such leave in three years with the Vancouver Canucks.
Derek Boogaard, 28, died on May 13th in his Minnesota apartment after an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.  Boogard came off a tough season with the New York Rangers that ended prematurely after suffering a concussion on December 9th vs. Ottawa.
Three enforcers, all between the ages of 27 and 35 years old taken from their families and fans too soon.  Three NHL players, who lost their lives since May of this year.  All three were strong and in good health, playing for the best hockey league in the world.  What could have been the root of their problems that led to their deaths?
After the great Bob Probert passed away from heart failure in July, his family donated his brain for scientific study of sport’s concussions and the effects of brain trauma, at Boston University.  They found that Probert suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that often leads to memory loss, drug abuse, depression and anger issues related to impulse control.  C.T.E., as it is known in medical circles, is said to be prevalent in the research conducted on retired players of the National Football League. (Source: Alan Schwarz-The New York Times)
Is fighting responsible?  I don’t think you could truly say that it is.  Playing contact sports all my life, I’ve seen brutal hits and injuries in lacrosse, football and hockey.  The very nature of the contact sport puts the entirety of the body through a battery of beatings regularly.  Injuries are common and can occur to even well-conditioned athletes.  The same can be said about head injuries within the contact sport itself.  Not keeping your head up or being vulnerable for just a second can lead to a concussion.  Multiple concussions over a career can definitely affect the cognitive health of an athlete and could possibly lead to problems later on in life.
The NHL has taken the plague of head injuries seriously.  They have looked into player equipment, ice-surface safety and the rules of conduct within the game to address the problem.  Hits to the head have been forbidden and punishments for the offenders have been given to make each offender an example.  These are good changes and if followed and applied justly, will definitely make the game safer.  Reminders to all players in the game to be more aware and to avoid precarious positions will also help.  Unfortunately, I think that head injuries can’t be avoided in a contact sport like hockey.
Post-concussion syndrome used to be called getting your bell rung.  Anyone who suffers from it can tell you, it’s completely debilitating and greatly affects your quality of life as you grow older.  In addition, do not downplay the seriousness of depression or dependance issues.  All are real symptoms found in those who suffer these types of head injuries.  All of these elements contribute to the deconstruction of an athlete's life.  You could assert that as an enforcer, one would be more susceptible to concussions and thereby, have an increased risk of conditions like C.T.E.  Some evolve after retirement while others force retirement of promising careers.  While all players are subject to the risks that play the game, is there a pattern evident?
Enforcers are necessary to protect the star players in the game or to re-establish team focus.  They provide an intimidation factor to opponents that all hostile attacks will be answered in kind.  They are a champion, of sorts, to the crest on the jersey and beloved by thousands of screaming fans as much as any sniper or masked protector of the net.  They put themselves at risk every time they engage in combat on the ice.  Is it fair of the casual fan to not be concerned at the rise in depression or heath issue risk associated with the brain injuries so common to these men? 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Neutral Reckoning of Reality

I need to repost a repost of a fantastic article brought to my attention by @NHLArenaNYIsles  on Twitter.  It’s an article by JJ from Kansas from a Redwing blogging crew called @wingingitmotown .  Also give credit to the great Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy for an earlier refrenced article.

It goes into the Pitt/Isles game controversy from a neutral perspective and details what the writer learned from re-watching the game after an Isles fan challenged him to do so.  I found it to be an interesting take of the whole situation and loved the way it maps out the story of the game by the actions involved.

Here is the article:


Bravo Sir.  Thank you for your article.


Greg Wyshynski’s earlier article

Monday, August 22, 2011

We are all Islanders.

Back on August 1st, a third jersey concept for the Islanders 2011-2012 season was leaked and picked up on the Internet. 


The Islanders PR machine quickly responded that it was only one of the concepts being considered at this time.  Today, Icethetics.info claimed to have confirmation that was indeed the third jersey to be worn by the Isles for a handful of games this season.  CB gives them credibility on such rumors.

Since it was leaked, a majority of the loyal fans and the Isles hate machine rejected the design and called for a re-do.  A short time after that, people became obsessed with hating on the new design.  They became agitated on all of the Isles Blogs and on twitter, and spoke of how it was another black eye on the season before it has even started.  I am not thrilled with the jersey, but its not terrible, its just not uniquely Isles.  The orange third jersey used from 02-03 until 06-07 was even a better fit in my opinion.



But seriously, I think everyone should relax and not get distracted.  I get how we all have free agent envy, and the vote failed and most fans feel like the Islanders can’t even get a jersey concept correct.  I think posting 5 concepts and letting the fans vote was the way to go.  I gave that suggestion on twitter right after I saw the new design, but who am I?  Well, I am a die-hard fan.  Perhaps a redundant title because anyone who is still a fan must be called diehard at this point.  I understand new jerseys mean new revenue to the team from a loyal fan base.  Some fans will buy what ever the team puts out and they know this.  I am almost this bad, but I at least waited for the classic logo to return to the wave jersey before I even considered grabbing one.



I think we should not over react.  Lets keep the faith and hope for some trades, waiver pick-ups and some good luck to come our way.  We have a lot to be excited about with this team.  Islander country is wrought with well-written articles on top prospects, young talent and a solid base that has the potential to return us to a competitive playoff team in the near future.  All I am saying is stay true and keep letting this stuff roll off your back.  We can take it.  Lets not allow those hipsters who have made Islander-bashing one of today’s hottest trends feel satisfied.  We should refuse to allow the media to get us riled up about this or anything else we have to deal with.  I know we have had a few embarrassing moments, but we will get through it.

I would just like to see everyone chill out and come together and be more positive about the team, especially in public.  We need to give the haters less ammunition when it comes to our passion.  As a die-hard Islander fan, I am calling out to my battle brothers and sisters.  Relax and keep focus on the prize.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.

We are all Islanders.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

R&D for a better NHL?

NHL Research and Development Camp

Here are some on the things being tested at the NHL R&D camp that I was able to find from various sources on the internet.

In game rule proposals:

- No-touch and Hybrid icing
-No icing during penalty kills
- Face-off variations (penalty line for center committing an infraction; all face-offs in circles; same linesman drops puck for all face-offs)
- Shootout variation (5-man shootout precedes sudden-death format)
- Shallow-back nets
- Face-off variations (both centers must come set on whistle; all face-offs in circles; same linesman drops puck for all face-offs)
- Delayed penalty variation (offending team must exit zone in possession of puck to stop play)
-All penalties served in their entirety
- Changes only allowed on-the-fly (none during stoppage or offside)
- Strict enforcement of goaltenders covering puck outside crease (Rule 63.2)
- Remove trapezoid
- Allow hand passes in all zones
- Overtime variation (switch ends)
- Shootout variation (5-man shootout with repeat players if tied after 5 shooters)
- Thin-netting nets
- Offside variation (offending team can’t change and face-off in its end zone)
- Face-off variations (player encroaching can’t replace thrown-out center, all face-offs in circles; same linesman drops puck for all face-offs, after offside – faceoff goes to offenders zone)
- Bear-hug rule
- Overtime variation (switch ends for four minutes of 4-on-4, followed by three min. of 3-on-3)
- Shootout variation (3-man shoot out with repeat shooters if tied after 3 shooters)

Logistical and safety rule proposals:

-On-ice officials communication – ref-to-ref wireless
-Overhead camera – to assist Hockey Operations reviews of various initiatives (verification line/goal netting/in-net camera)
-Clear window on top on net behind crossbar and around side of net for controversial goal verification.
-Verification line to assist officials in determining definitively if a puck crossing goal line counts as a goal
-In-net camera – mounted camera at one end with one net with camera view focused on the goal line to help verify goals
-Robotic camera – to test camera angles for coverage closer to ice
-Video replay application review
-Curved glass – protection options at players bench areas

The camp also featured top junior level players acting as test subjects and auditioning for NHL GM’s and coaches that attended.  In addition, there is an All-Star Skills competition (fastest skater, breakaway challenge, accuracy shooting, skills relay challenge, hardest shot, elimination shootout) to showcase talent at the camp.
My take:

I like the Hybrid icing, no trapezoid and shallow nets.  In addition, the additional camera angles, clear window over net, verification line and curved glass at benches.  I feel they improve an already strong on-ice product and make the game smartly safer for the players.

Things like limiting changes and 3 man overtimes could result in more injuries and don’t make the product better.  More offense isn’t always a reason to make a change.  Hand passes will open a whole new can of worms.  Can you slide a puck into an open net with your hand?  Too much chaos would ensue.

Overall, I think these camps are a great idea.  The league can test rules and policy changes in a perfect environment before a trial in the ECHL or AHL.  They can also display top prospects in a unique way to the assembled GM’s and hockey elite.  It seems like a great vehicle to evaluate and thoroughly test all kinds on idea and concepts.  I only hope the better stuff rises to the top and the silly stuff get ignored.  We don’t need gimmicks; just give valuable improvements a chance. 


Parody you say?

Dee Karl re-posted this on her Blog:

STUHACKEL Stu Hackel
The #Islanders and MSGN will replace 2/11 brawl game vs. Pens with 2/13 win over Sabres for their viewing party on Friday. Soon on SI.com

Was it the Isles and MSG?  Apparently so. 

So now, some ego driven, self righteous political or social pressure will force a change of the random re-air of a hockey game on cable so fans can’t gather publicly in a sports bar to watch it.

This brings censorship to a whole new level.

Wow.


#Pengwhines

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Islanders Announce 2011-12 Training Camp Schedule and Roster



Per the Islanders website, the 2011-2012 training camp schedule was released today.  They will require all Rookies to report 9/10 with full team practices to start on 9/17.  Camp will be held at both the Iceworks facility and NVMC.  The full camp will run through Wednesday, 9/5. 

Key dates to watch out for are a closed date on 9/12 and a public date on 9/13 where the Islanders Rookies and the Boston Bruins at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum at 7 p.m.  On 9/13, tickets will be a $10.00 donation to the Islanders Children’s Foundation, while season ticket holders will have free admission to the game.  Starting on 9/17, the full training camp roster with Rookies and Veterans will split into two squads and on-ice sessions will take place between 10 am and 2 pm.

The 2011 preseason schedule will see the Islanders play five games from 9/23 to 10/1 in Bridgeport. 

2011 Rookie Camp Attendees*

Forwards                       Defensemen                       Goalies

Justin DiBenedetto          Art Bidlevski                       Mikko Koskinen
Casey Cizikas                Calvin de Haan                    Anders Nilsson
Brett Gallant                   Matt Donovan                     Kevin Poulin
Kirill Kabanov                  Mark Katic    
Tyler McNeely                 Brendan Kichton
Nino Niederreiter             Anton Klementyev      
John Persson                 Aaron Ness    
Rhett Rakhshani             Benn Olson   
Tony Romano                 Andrey Pedan  
Ryan Strome                
Mitchell Theoret            
David Ullstrom      

*Roster subject to change

        
2011 Islanders Camp Roster

Forwards


12         JOSH BAILEY                                                
57         BLAKE COMEAU                                                         
14         TREVOR GILLIES                                                        
40         MICHAEL GRABNER                                                              
18         MICHEAL HALEY                                                       
17         MATT MARTIN                                                           
26         MATT MOULSON                                                       
51         FRANS NIELSEN                                                         
21         KYLE OKPOSO                                                         
15         PA PARENTEAU                                                  
16         MARTY REASONER                                                     
11         BRIAN ROLSTON                                                        
91         JOHN TAVARES

Defensemen


         MARK EATON                                                            
         TRAVIS HAMONIC                                                        
27        MILAN JURCINA                                                          
47        ANDREW MACDONALD                                                  
10        MIKE MOTTAU                                                          
2          MARK STREIT                                                
6          TY WISHART                                                        

Goaltenders


39         RICK DIPIETRO                                                        
35         AL MONTOYA                                                       
20         EVGENI NABOKOV                                                     



Rookie and Training Camp Schedule
(Schedule subject to change)

DAY     DATE                TIME (EST)                        EVENT                 LOCATION
Sat.      Sept. 10         11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.         Rookie Practice        NVMC

Sun.     Sept. 11         11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.           Rookie Practice        NVMC

Mon.     Sept. 12         7:00 p.m.              Rookie Game vs. BOSTON       NVMC
                                                             (closed to public)                                                                           

Tues.    Sept. 13         7:00 p.m.              Rookie Game vs. BOSTON        NVMC

Wed.    Sept. 14         1:10 p.m.              Children’s Foundation Golf         BP Red

                        10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.  Rookie Practice                        Iceworks

Thurs.   Sept. 15         TBD                      Rookie Practice                       Iceworks

Fri.       Sept. 16         7 a.m.                   Player Physicals                      NVMC

Sat.      Sept. 17        10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.       Practice                       Iceworks

Sun.     Sept. 18         10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.      Off-ice Workout             Iceworks

Mon.     Sept. 19         10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.      Practice                       Iceworks
Tues.    Sept. 20         10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.      Practice                       NVMC

Wed.    Sept. 21         10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.      Practice                       NVMC

Thurs.   Sept. 22         10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.      Practice                       NVMC

Fri.       Sept. 23         7:00 p.m.                       @ BOSTON            TD BANK GARDEN

Sat.      Sept. 24         7:00 p.m.                     vs. NEW JERSEY             NVMC

Sun.     Sept. 25         9:00 a.m.                      Community Event            Adventureland

Mon.     Sept. 26         10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.     Practice                        TBD

Tues.    Sept. 27         9:00 p.m.                        @ CALGARY            SADDLEDOME

Wed.    Sept. 28         10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.     Practice                        NVMC

Thurs.   Sept. 29         10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.     Practice                        Iceworks

Fri.       Sept. 30         7:00 p.m.                        @ NEW JERSEY      PRUD. CNTR

Sat.      Oct. 1            7:00 p.m.                      vs. BOSTON     WEBSTER BANK ARENA

Mon.     Oct. 3            10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.     Practice                        Iceworks

Tues.    Oct. 4             10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.    Practice                        Iceworks


Wed.    Oct. 5             10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.    Practice                         NVMC

KoC's choice for new Isles goal song!

KoC endorses Iron Maiden’s Heaven Can Wait for new Islanders goal song!  Let them know you agree!

 Listen in at around 3:38 for the vocal part! 


Knight_of_Cups_ Joe Bondi

@NYI_Goal_Song @MMoulson Really consider Heaven Can Wait/ Iron Maiden. Vocals around 3:38. Lets do this once and for all. #islespumpup


Sad news to report

Per NHL.com, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Alberta have confirmed that Winnipeg Jets forward Rick Rypien, 27, was found dead in his home in Crowsnest Pass, AB, on Monday.

According to a report in the Toronto Globe and Mail, RCMP officials confirmed the death was not of a suspicious nature.



Monday, August 15, 2011

Haters Are Gonna’ Hate.

The whole Pittsburgh Penguin fan reaction to the 8th Islander viewing party of the summer has been as ridiculous as one could imagine.  I think the fans crying the loudest need to really get over themselves and look into what the viewing parties actually stand for, regardless of the opponent they played in the game in question.  The parties that are scheduled around the big wins and meaningful Isles games of the past season are ones that the MSG network chooses to run to help their NHL audience get through the hockey depraved summer months.  It’s a way of keeping the culture intact.

"Hockey is a tough, physical game, and it always should be. But what happened Friday night on Long Island wasn't hockey. It was a travesty. It was painful to watch the game I love turn into a sideshow like that.”

”The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport. It failed.”

"We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players.  We must make it clear that those kinds of actions will not be tolerated and will be met with meaningful disciplinary action.”

"If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to re-think whether I want to be a part of it."

These were from the statement made by Penguins owner Mario Lemieux in the aftermath of the 2/11 contest between the Islanders and Penguins.  This wasn’t the first time he had an insulting thing to say about the NHL.  In 1992, he was heard calling the NHL a “garage league,” after a 4-2 New York Ranger win in which both he and Joe Mullen were injured by questionable hits.  The fact is, Mario Lemieux was always vocal on and off the ice, and like most star players with tremendous skill; his words carry weight, so why not complain and complain often and loudly. 

The important things to remember when speaking of that game are that the Penguins were the most penalized team by way of minutes and major’s.  That is a team that knows how to instigate and will certainly try to intimidate an opponent.  Lets not even speak of Cooke’s resume’.  Besides, why give the Islanders any respect?  OK, you want to bring up the spirit or intent of a couple of suspend-able hits by Gillies and Martin, go ahead.  Punishments were handed out for more games lost that would be handed out to players on other NHL teams.  That’s right, I said it.

What I saw on that night was a young, frustrated Islander team, beset with injuries and reeling from months of bad calls and unfair treatment by the officials, make a statement.  Yep, I said that too.  They forged an identity for themselves when they stood up for each other and answered every challenge given to them by the elite and “league darling” Pittsburgh Penguins.  Let us also not forget that the Isles held a commanding lead throughout the game and the bulk of the fights erupted when some would have considered the score out of hand for the Penguins.  A 9-3 win cannot be done to a team of that skill level by goonery alone.  The Penguins were outplayed and dominated by an opponent with daunting confidence as they watched themselves collapse under the challenge.

When I think back to that game, I can remember the Boston vs. Montreal game from a few days previous.  I found it humorous that fans and media called it old-time original-six hockey.  But, when the Islanders are involved, I guess in the view of some, old-time hockey is cheapened to a disgraceful display of sportsmanship.  I am proud of my guys and that they stood up for what they needed to do.  I am grateful for Gillies, Martin and Haley in that game.  That’s the kind of grit that will stick in the memory of an opponent before he makes a run at a player or considers a cheap shot.  I guess I am saying if you want to play, then play.  Do onto others, but don’t lose focus.  It was Trevor Gillies who said of the Islanders, "We're willing to bleed for each other." This is the kind of statement that builds character and sends a message.  It can easily be construed as a coming of Age.

Dee Karl posted a link about the issue being discussed on CNN.  What really amazes me is that before the matter was discussed in the segment, no one bothered to do any simple research on the facts.  It was a game chosen and broadcast on MSG and was the 8th such party to be offered to Islander fans this summer.  No intended disrespect.  Not Islander slander against the princely Penguins.  The fact that the Isles promoted the event to watch a game on a cable network at a sports bar on their site makes them guilty of what?


Dee calls it perfectly with the following observation. “ ‘Oddly, the scroll under the description of ‘NY Islanders Celebrate Replay of Pittsburgh Fist Fest’ are more newsworthy items such as ‘Car bomb injures 33 in Algeria,’ ‘Militants launch deadly attack on Afghan governors compound’, ‘Roadside bomb in Baghdad kills Iraqi solder, Injures 10.’ "

The fact is that the team, the fans and the bloggers sit back and hear all the trendy Islander bashing, all the jokes and all the slights from those who seem fit to judge.  We are all tired of it.  The team is trying to improve on and off the ice and navigate the challenge of the best league in the world just like 29 other teams are doing.  The fans, often maligned and bruised, are the greatest bunch of fans in sports.  I should know.  I attend events, gatherings and games with these people.  From the casual fan to the wannabe writers like myself.  We will call out the Islanders if we don’t like a move or effort and understand viable criticism.  What we take exception to is being a punch line or a scapegoat when it isn’t deserved.

Respect is not given, its earned.  The Islanders are poised to start earning it.  They are ready to compete and make another step towards the goal of restoring the tradition of the past with the team of the future. 

If you don’t like it, too bad. 

Haters are gonna’ hate.




Edit:  Thanks to Dominik’s Light House Hockey, NHL looking into viewing party. 

I have no words.  Unreal.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Islander Notes


After 3.5 days with a family emergency, no net access and being sick, here are my notes that I have been waiting to share.  Sorry for the delay.

The New York Islanders have signed Sean Backman to a two-way, one-year deal.

Another depth move for the isles, Backman, 25, scored 7 and 16 for 23 points in 67 games with the Stars of the AHL.  It was his first crack at playing professional hockey. Backman played his College hockey for Yale and achieved rookie of the year honors as a freshman and became the bulldogs captain in his senior year at Yale totaling 77 and 49 for 126 points.  On a side note, Backman is the Brother-in-law to Islanders Forward, Matt Moulson.

Scott Mayfield and Robbie Russo have been cut from USA camp.

Former Islander D, Jack Hillen has signed with the Nashville Predators for a 1 year, 2 way deal.

Former Islander F, Rob Schremp has signed with MoDo of Sweden.

An idependent “Colisieum Taskforce” has been organized to go over develoment possibilities of the Nassau HUB area.  Islanders legend, Bobby Nystrom is said to be on the committee.



The NHL will run another Research, Development and Orientation Camp in Etobicoke, Ont.  The camp allows the NHL to test potential changes to the game within the rules or regulation ice surface.