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After having a few days to reflect on the 2011 Winter Classic and read others praises and criticism, I wanted to post a wrap up of my own. Aside from my own personal adventures below, this post addresses some of the things that I have heard since the event.

*Media outlets across the country have criticized Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau for saying that the game was the biggest thing next to winning a Stanley Cup. I am not sure many people, particularly fans of the winning team, who were there would disagree. Sure it was just a “regular season” game, but the atmosphere was so much more. Over 68,000 fans, including a LOT of people wearing the red and white were there to witness the late night spectacle. Especially when you come from a state where teams struggle to fill a regular hockey arena, to see a stadium brimming with fans who had come together, but were so divided, the night was truly magical. Even a Stanley Cup playoff game is going to have maximum in the neighborhood of 20,000 fans…there were over 3 TIMES that at the Winter Classic. It was huge.

*The quality of the ice was extremely poor. I felt like the temperature when the game started was actually perfect. Of course, the rain during the second and third periods was not ideal, but to see all of those people sitting in it really showed how dedicated the fans were to this event. I also heard that the television broadcast seemed to pretend the rain did not exist. I think this certainly could have been played up. The Winter Classic is about returning to the roots of the sport – celebrating the backyard pickup game on the pond. It seems that with the glitz of the NHL, many have forgotten that this game started out with less than perfect ice conditions. I’m pretty sure Ovechkin did not have a Zamboni hiding out in the garage of his backyard in Russia. The NHL is supposed to be the most skilled players of this sport. Sure the ice might have posed additional challenges, but these players are the best, they should be able to adapt to conditions. Also, the NHL tried to keep it fair, giving each team equal time on both ends of the ice. I was told that the viewers at home did not really see the switch in the third period.

*Camera angles on television were less than ideal. Having not yet seen the television broadcast, I cannot comment on this except to say that this game is held once a year. It is not like the camera guys have experience with this or a chance to practice. Also, the game time was moved on Friday. There was not a ton of time to make adjustments to accommodate glare or weather/ice conditions. I am sure there were lessons learned and things that could be improved, but a comment to me after the game was made by a friend that really hit home. This friend plays minor league soccer; he is not a hockey fan per se and he told me that he was watching the game on television and couldn’t imagine how great it must be to be there. This is what the Winter Classic should be all about – introducing new fans to the sport. Sure the Stanley Cup playoffs might be the true highlight of the sport’s premier games, but during that time the league is competing with NBA Finals for viewership. The Winter Classic has less competition, typically matching up only with college bowl games and other NHL games. I do think it would be in the league’s best interest, however, not to schedule any other games on New Year’s Day, so as to avoid potential conflicts.

*The Ovechkin/Crosby matchup and the Penguins/Capitals rivalry were overplayed.  As a Capitals fan, I know how bitter the rivalry between the two teams is first hand. While it is true that neither Ovechkin nor Crosby scored a point in this matchup, there is no denying the amazing accomplishments of both and how strangely parallel their careers are. Both players suited up in the NHL for the first time the same year, both have already had storied careers, and both of their teams are better when they are on the ice. I’m sure a lot of people were tired of hearing about the two players and I agree that the media could have focused on some other stories, but I think in some cases, they did a good job of promotion. In particular, the HBO special 24/7 covering both teams road to the Winter Classic was extremely well-produced and showcased some unlikely members of the team. For example, showing the recalling and sending back down of AHL players gave viewers a peek into the life of a prospect in these systems and interviewing Matt Hendricks up close after a nasty black eye, complete with stiches really demonstrated the toughness of some of these players.

*There are some that said this should be a day game and the NHL should have moved it to Sunday. I disagree. I think the game played under the lights was truly something special. It kind of gave me the feeling of being a kid and playing outside up until the very last possible minute, even though your parents were telling you it was time to come inside. It was like just that one time when they allowed you to stay out just a little past your bedtime because you were having so much fun. The Super Bowl is played at night and I think this is kind of the atmosphere that was present at Heinz Field. Also this was great since New Year’s Eve was the night before. So many revelers were out late and the 8 pm start time on Saturday allowed them to sleep in, enjoy brunch and then start tailgating in the afternoon. The build up to the event was just the right amount.

I hope the NHL continues to do the Winter Classic for years to come. I also hope that they do rotate the teams that are playing, regardless of home location so that everyone, both players and fans get the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful experience. And I hope they continue to play the game under the lights of the stadium. I know I will be there.

I flew from Austin, Texas to Baltimore, Maryland on December 28, 2010 for what promised to be an epic hockey trip. The trip was my first return to the DC metro area since relocating back to Austin earlier in the year. Over the course of 7 days, I would be attending four hockey games, including the 2011 Winter Classic, a matchup between the Washington Capitals and their most hated rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins. In preparation for the trip, I had been watching the weather predictions like a hawk and things weren’t looking good. The latest forecast called for temperatures in the 50s and a high probability of rain. When I boarded the plane at Austin Bergstrom early Tuesday morning all I hoped was that they would not cancel the game.

My journey began with a rematch of last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs between the Washington Capitals and the Montreal Canadiens. Even without Jaroslav Halak, the goalie that stymied the Capitals last spring, the Canadiens posed a challenge for the boys at Verizon Center. Walking into the arena, memories came flooding back from the city that made me fall in love with hockey. While I’d been a casual Dallas Stars fan for years, it was not until I lived in DC that I developed a real passion for the sport. From even before the first notes of the national anthem, I scanned the crowd and saw a sea of red. Fans did not wait until the puck dropped at Verizon Center to show up, many of them were there early to catch warmups set to the tune of celebrity DJ Brett Leonhart’s soundtrack. It was great to be a part of the crowd again, cheering, “Let’s go Caps” along with the Horn Guy and Loud Goat. And yes, even screaming “Red” during the national anthem rather than “Stars.”

The game definitely delivered the excitement that was promised, with the Capitals shutting out the Habs 3-0. Varlamov earned the start in net for the home team and was sharp throughout the game. I got to connect with some great Caps fans I’d been chatting with via Twitter leading up to my trip and it was nice to be back in my second home for a little while. On Wednesday, I was able to pick up some gifts for friends back home in Texas at Kettler, including a Winter Classic jersey for myself. However, I struggled with how to customize the jersey, not really knowing who would be in net for the Capitals. The staff at KCI was so helpful and friendly and I even managed to run into someone that has followed me on Twitter since the Calder Cup finals last year. It really is a small world sometimes.

On Thursday we hit the road to Pittsburgh for an afternoon hockey double-header, first seeing a college game with RIT and Robert Morris College. My friend Chris is an RIT alum and was excited to see his boys in brown and orange take the victory. In addition, he was able to get some help from the RIT hockey team with “Project Vicarious Major,” an effort for a college fraternity buddy that is currently serving in Iraq. The whole hockey team posed with a photo of his friend Bill Bernhard in their locker room after the game.

Following the college matchup, the reigning Calder Cup Champion Hershey Bears took on their rival, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. In a true goalie battle, the Bears earned the two points in the standings with a shutout at the hands of netminder Braden Holtby. The final score at Consol was 1-0 Bears over the Pens. As an added bonus, I was able to say hi to a couple of people I met during the AHL playoffs last year and the staff at Consol was quite helpful in making that happen. In case they had any doubt, I will say that the Hershey Bears are lucky to have John Walton as their play-by-play guy and it is fascinating to watch him call a game – one of the best in the business.

The next day was New Year’s Eve and it certainly turned out be one of the most special ones I’ve had in a few years. Honestly I’ve never put a lot of stock in ringing in the New Year, but this year was different. With the help of a few DC media people and the friends I travelled with, I managed to find a nice crowd on the Southside of Pittsburgh. Early we cheered on Team USA in the World Juniors as they cruised to a 2-1 victory over the Swiss. Goalie of the future for the Dallas Stars, Jack Campbell played an excellent game again and made some remarkable saves during the third to keep Team USA in the game. The chant of “Freedom” and cheers rang throughout the bar as USA scored the game winner.

Also throughout the night, Capitals fans made their presence known in the ‘Burgh, starting up chants of “C-A-P-S Caps, Caps, Caps!!” While a few Penguins fans at Smokey Joe’s answered back with “Let’s go Pens,” the visitors actually outnumbered the home team at several establishments. A funny moment of the night came when someone started a chant that all the patrons could agree with, “Flyers Suck!!” We rang in the New Year with friends, both old and new and somehow managed to finally make it back to our hotel room in the wee hours after midnight. Let’s just say I’m pretty sure I was not the only person that was happy that the game was pushed back to an 8 pm start time!

On Saturday, we continued to check the weather report and finally decided on what would be the appropriate layers for the first Winter Classic ever to be played under the lights of a football stadium. Walking over to Heinz Field, there was a buzz for blocks – fans chanting back and forth; vendors hawking t-shirts and other team gear; tailgaters wrapping up the party for the walk to the stadium. Heading into Heinz it was absolutely electric. I’ve been to a lot of sporting events in my life and this game to me truly had the feeling of something a lot bigger than a regular season game.

Although Evengi Malkin scored the first goal for the Penguins, the rest of the game was somewhat dominated by the Capitals, led by unlikely hero Eric Fehr. F16 notched two goals for the Caps coming off the bench after being scratched in the team’s two previous games. Once the Capitals scored their first, there was really a momentum shift. I felt like Marc Andre Fleury got extremely lucky as his team really kept a few pucks from going in, despite him being tangled up out of position several times. A missed attempt by Caps Jason Chimera at an open net also kept the Penguins close. I was not able to see a close up of the Penguins goal that was called back, but the fans behind us sure thought it was a bogus call. Ovechkin also had a goal called back for the Capitals later in the game.

At the end of the day, despite the cold rain that drizzled down for much of the latter part of the game, we all left beaming from ear to ear. Just could not wipe the grin off my face…and it stayed there for days. Even now, a week later, all someone has to do is mention the Winter Classic and I get all giddy. Also, kudos to both the Capitals and the Penguins organizations as well for agreeing to give us all a sneak peek into the preparations through the HBO special 24/7 – absolutely amazing work by HBO to chronicle this experience. Excellent soundtrack and narrative – I definitely teared up watching the final episode. It truly was one of the greatest weekends of my life. In addition, I’m glad my first Winter Classic was to see a team that I love so much. I’m so fortunate that I have great friends that invited me to go and also made the trip fun.

 

 

Last night after the Capitals/Stars game I was still reeling with excitement and decided to call it an early night since I planned to hit Stars practice in Frisco on Friday morning. I was also looking through a few goodies I had picked up for friends, namely the Dallas Stars Foundation calendar – a blatant attempt to convince my girl friends that they should check out hockey! I had planned to send a calendar to my friend Kris in Cincinnati since she would be getting a Dallas Stars tattoo soon and decided it would be cool to get the calendar autographed at practice as a surprise.

At some point as I lay there restlessly, I came up with a great idea to do something really special for Kris at practice. I had decided to take my Flip camera and make a video of some of the guys wishing her good luck on the tattoo. After practice I got a chance to chat with Mike Ribeiro first, who promised he would help out just as soon as he finished hitting the weights. A little later, I caught up with Trevor Daley and Andrew Raycroft, who both recorded funny little clips for my project. The next guy to come out was Steve Ott. He was with his father, so I was hesitant to ask, but thought…it’s Steve Ott…this project would not be complete without Otter!! You can imagine my surprise when Ott asked my friends name and said that he and Adam Burish had actually JUST recorded something for the Dallas Stars website for her!

I was so excited I’m pretty sure I high-fived Ott, knowing that my friend would be so happy the guys did a video for her. I thought about giving up my project, but considering the footage I got from Raycroft and Daley, decided to finish what I started. I wanted to wait until Dallas posted on their website so as not to take away from what they had done, but also wanted to share this video with Kris. Hope you enjoy it and thanks again to the Stars for being so cooperative and funny!

 

 

This year I have had the opportunity to meet some fabulous people via the online world – Twitter, Facebook and events planned and advertised through the use of social media. On October 28th, I went to Dallas to meet up for a girl’s hockey weekend to celebrate the birthday of one such friend named Kris. Despite the Stars loss to the Kings that Thursday (more on this later), the trip was tons of fun and Kris even got to get her Joe Nieuwendyk jersey signed after years of being a huge fan. At the beginning of the season this year, the Dallas Stars burst out of the gates with four straight wins. During this hot streak (and likely after a few glasses of wine), Kris said she would get a tattoo (her first!) if the Dallas Stars won 5 in a row. Alas, the Stars lost their fifth game of the year to the Tampa Bay Lightning and the streak was broken.

Fast forward to December 2nd. I had been waiting for months to see the matchup between my #1 team, the Dallas Stars and the Washington Capitals, the team I adopted living in DC from 2006-2010. I was lucky enough to have been sent a free ticket to the game by one of my Twitter followers and had been counting down the days forever! Early in the day I had heard that Stars coach Marc Crawford had announced that Andrew Raycroft had earned the start in the net for the Stars. Yikes! Kari Lehtonen had been on a hot streak, winning the last three straight and only allowing 4 goals total in the wins. I was nervous. Not to mention…the first thing I saw in the game notes when I got to American Airlines Center was the statistic that Kari Lehtonen had not lost a game in regulation at home since October 28th…yep, I remember…I was there.

The game got off to a shaky start for the Stars with the Capitals dominating the shots on goal battle. However, Raycroft was solid and stopped all 14 shots in the first period, making some amazing saves in the process. The Capitals seemed to be controlling the game in the first though and again, I was nervous. During the second, the Stars really started playing a trap defense that changed the momentum of the game in my opinion. Rather than hanging back and letting the Caps set up plays, the Stars were swarming and going after the puck before it even crossed the blue line, many times getting the takeaway and pushing the play back into their own offensive zone.

At 13:29 in the second, Mike Ribeiro scored what I thought might end up being the game winning goal. Both teams were fighting so hard, scrambling to make something happen and shots on goal were low and fairly even in the second with the Capitals leading 10-8. In the third period, the Capitals came out slinging again, logging another 14 shots on goal, but it wasn’t until halfway through the final period that one slipped past Raycroft. Mike Knuble scored off a sweet pass by Mike Green to even up the score. I feared overtime. I feared shootout. However, just 20 seconds later, Brandon Segal said, “Fear not…we got this,” and launched a long shot right past Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth to put the Stars up 2-1.

In the final minutes of the game came a very controversial call that disallowed a Capitals goal. I will say honestly that I was at the other end of the ice and with the bends in the glass, was not able to really see what happened, so I can not make a call. However, in reading all of the recaps, it appears that even the Capitals weren’t sure what happened except that they were robbed. At AAC, it was announced that the goal was disallowed because the player was in the crease. According to Russian Machine Never Breaks, the infraction was caused by Stephane Robidas skating into Raycroft. TPP says it was Karlis Skrastins. Others that were at the game said they thought Skrastins was already heading into Raycroft, but Ovechkin helped him along. Either way, I think it was ruled that Ovechkin is just a beast and his manhandling of our players made it appear to the officials that some sort of goalie interference occurred.

For the record, I wish this would not have happened. No matter the outcome, I hate for a game to be tainted by what is deemed bad officiating because it gives the losing teams an opportunity to say that they “would have won if.” Honestly, the Capitals would have won this game long before that call if they had played their game. Throughout the night they looked sloppy, missing passes, falling all over the place (Ovi!! I’m sure it was the ice) and just failing to take advantage of opportunities. The Stars may have looked rather scrappy last night, but they fought hard for this win and I don’t think you can take that away from them. Andrew Raycroft stepped in and played a near flawless game and was rewarded for it.

I also must say that Brad Richards deserves to be the MVP of this team. His puck-handling ability and calmness on the ice is amazing to watch in person and I sure hope the Dallas Stars do everything in their power to keep him in the Lone Star state. It is likely this team would fall apart without him.

So, the Stars win, albeit an ugly and controversial one. It was a fantastic game to see live and I am so thankful for the opportunity to do so. And Kris must get her tattoo!! Especially now that the Dallas Stars know about it since they re-tweeted her pledge yesterday! I certainly hope she makes a trip out of it and comes down to Texas for the big event. Congrats Stars and good luck Kris!!

This summer there was a big hoopla on Twitter when Phoenix Coyotes left wing Paul Bissonnette unexpectedly (or expectedly depending on how you look at it) deleted his Twitter account @PaulBizNasty.  The departure from tweeting came after controversial remarks surrounding the announcement of Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract and its subsequent rejection by the NHL.  It was widely speculated that either the Coyotes or the NHL forced Bissonnette to delete the account, but when I questioned him on the subject his original reply was, “No comment. God I hate saying that. I miss it to. Tell everyone I love there support. It’s good for the fans. Get to know the players personality.”  He has since stated on his Facebook page (which has grown in friends exponentially to over 4,400 since the incident) that it was his agent who made him shut down the page and partnered with Sauce Hockey to create t-shirts with creative BizNasty slogans. Profits from the sales will be donated to Phoenix-area homeless shelters, as Bissonnette often expressed his love of “bums” on his Twitter account.

Bissonnette returned to Twitter at the start of the NHL season at @BizNasty2point0 and now has 16,662 followers. While the league, athletes and agents are constantly trying to figure out how to tap into the free advertising that social media provides and how to “do it right,” this incident plays back to the popular public relations mantra, “No publicity is bad publicity.”  If anything, Paul Bissonnette’s Twitter account is an example of how not to “do” social media. He is constantly offensive and far from politically correct.  However, the public reaction to the shutting down of his account proved that the fans crave a sort of “realness” from athletes, especially from hockey players, who have long been criticized for having no personality.  So where do we draw the line on what is appropriate?

The NHL GM’s meeting is today and one of the items on the table is the league’s social media policy, or lack thereof.  The NHL is the only major sports league that does not currently have a policy in place. Sports Business Daily recently held a roundtable of ten team and league executives to discuss the pros and pitfalls of social media. Most agreed that there are not yet strict policies in place, just “common sense” guidelines and a “we’ll know it when we see it” attitude to what athletes and team representatives should not do in the social space.  Regardless of guidelines or agreement on how to operate in the social space, it is evident that everyone agrees on the importance of existing in social media, as it is something that appeals to the fans. While in some cases, it has not translated to dollar-for-dollar ROI, the “behind the scenes” look at a team or athlete definitely enhances the experience for fans. Melissa Brenner, Vice-President of Marketing for the NBA said, “Whatever trepidation we might or might not have had at first was outweighed by the fans’ fervor for this.”

It will be interesting to see how new policies develop and change over time among the professional sports leagues and teams. One can certainly hope that restrictions don’t take away the inside look at player’s personalities, as in my opinion, that is what makes social media unique. I had the opportunity to talk to one of hockey’s best Twitter personalities this summer, goalie for the Albany Devils, Mike McKenna. Mike has done a fabulous job of growing his fan base through Twitter (@MikeMcKenna56), but also occasionally guest blogs on goalie-specific topics for InGoalMag. McKenna actually started using Twitter for the same reason that hockey fans are using it…to follow a favorite sport (in his case Indy car racing). He now has over 2,400 followers and Tweets regularly. He joined Twitter completely on his own.  McKenna said, “it’s a terrific way to engage and interact with fans, and that’s a high priority for me.  I make a point of being involved in whatever community I am playing in, and Twitter is just an extension of that.” This summer he even ran a contest via Twitter for his followers to help him choose a new design for his goalie pads. Although he says the pads that were selected weren’t his personal favorite initially, nearly 400 people voted and he wears the pads proudly. He hopes fans who voted can look at his gear and say “I had a part in choosing that!”

The great thing about Mike McKenna is that he is extremely aware of how social media can build or damage an athlete’s personal brand. When asked about why he uses it, McKenna responded, “I believe Twitter is more than a social networking platform.  For professional athletes and people with a modicum of celebrity, it’s also a personal marketing device.  I started Tweeting because it was fun and useful, but over time I have seen the professional benefits associated with it.  Although I truly enjoy interacting with my followers, I also realize that having an account aids in creating a personal fanbase.  In the sports world, a good reputation goes a long way, and presenting yourself in an interesting yet calculated manner on Twitter can only help.  With that knowledge comes the realization that self-censoring must happen constantly.  I have very strong political and religious opinions but I shy away from such topics.  I’d hate to alienate a fan purely based on beliefs. All too often, the only way fans get to know players is through media interviews, which very rarely show off the player’s true personality.  Twitter is pretty much the antithesis of that.”

Another big proponent of Twitter is agent, Scott Norton of Norton Sports. Norton encourages all of his clients to “get active with social media, as long as they will do so in a professional manner.  I know that both Twitter and Facebook can help any of the players from a PR and marketing standpoint, and am willing to assist them in the process.” Norton acknowledges that although he helps his athletes with setup and the technology, everything they post is their own.  One of Norton’s star clients Dustin Brown launched his DLo23 line with Combat Sports this summer and most of the promotion for the event was handled through the use of social media. Norton’s latest project launched with the help of social media is “Make My Day Monday, ” in which people are encouraged to take some time out of their lives each Monday to make an impact, no matter how big or small, on someone else’s life. This initiative has gotten a lot of press for Norton Sports and its clients and already made a big difference in the lives of many. Followers from everywhere Tweet in each Monday things they have done with the hashtag #MMDM, ranging from donating money to a cause to simply giving a coworker a ride home from work to help out.  Norton Sports also partnered with State Street Sports to host the first ever “Make My Day Monday” event in October.

As the public craving for the look inside the lives of professional athletes grows, it is in the professional league’s best interest to create rules, but not make them too restrictive. If athletes are not able to let their personalities show through in their use of social media, it will lose its appeal. Fans love social media because it gives them a chance to identify with their favorite athletes and realize that these guys are human beings, most with similar interests and concerns. In addition, the power of using social media and celebrity to do good can not be overlooked. After all, didn’t you get your “BizNasty Feeds the Homeless t-shirt?” I bought two…one for a friend for #MMDM.

I know I preach over and over that AHL fans need to move on when guys get traded to other teams, but I also like to keep tabs on guys I’ve seen play in Cedar Park. The AHL is a developmental league. NHL teams are looking at their affiliates for potential impact players at the next level. Players are also looking for an opportunity to make a jump. Here are some updates on former Texas Stars players from around the league:

*Mathieu Beaudoin (Phoenix Coyotes/SA Rampage) – Currently ranked 8th in overall points in the AHL. Beaudoin has 7 points and 7 assists through 12 games in San Antonio with the Rampage. Beaudoin has a plus-1 rating.

*Garrett Stafford (Phoenix Coyotes/SA Rampage) – Stafford has 3 goals and 8 assists in 11 games played with a plus-2 rating. Stafford was scratched in the contest in Cedar Park earlier this season.

*Matt Climie (Phoenix Coyotes/SA Rampage) – Matt Climie is currently on a 5-game winning streak, having allowed just 7 goals with a 1.37 GAA and a .958% over that stretch. However, he started in net during the 2 early season losses to his former team, the Texas Stars, allowing 7 goals against.

*Andrew Hutchinson (Pittsburgh Penguins/Wilkes-Barre Penguins) – Hutch is the only former Stars player that has spent significant time with his new NHL squad, as he was called up for 5 games to fill roster holes left by injured Pens defensemen. He did have an assist during his time with Pittsburgh, but had a minus-3 rating. The Wilkes-Barre Pens look like the team to beat this season as they are now 9-0 on the season. For Wilkes-Barre, Hutchinson has logged 2 goals and 5 assists.

*Warren Peters (Minnesota Wild/Houston Aeros) – Peters is still a menace on the ice this year for the Aeros, constantly stirring up trouble with other teams, but not making a big impact on the scoreboard. In 11 games he has 1 goal, 2 assists and 14 penalty minutes.

*Ethan Graham (Charlotte Checkers) – Graham has played 4 games with the Checkers and logged 1 assist.

*Dan Jancevski (Philadelphia Flyers/Adirondack Phantoms) – Jancevski has the misfortune of playing on one of the worst teams in the AHL. Phantoms have a 2-9 record on the season and have already dismissed one player because of attitude problems, as well as warned two others. Jancevski wore the ‘C’ in one of the preseason games for the Phantoms. He has one assist.

Other random notes on Stars’ prospects/guys that have been in camp with Dallas or Texas (I know there are a ton more…these are just guys that have some good/interesting stats):

*Jack Campbell (Windsor Spitfires/OHL) – Campbell was signed to a 3-year entry-level deal this past week by the Dallas Stars. Campbell has played for 738 minutes in 13 games for the Spitfires and has faced 396 shots. The Spitfires weak defense has not done Campbell any favors this year and his stats show it. Campbell has a 3.82 GAA and a save percentage of .881.

*Tyler Beskorowany (Idaho Steelheads) – Besko logged his first career shutout for the Steelheads opener against Victoria this season. He has played in 8 games and is 3-3-1-1 with a 2.49 GAA and a .922 save percentage.

*Cody Lampl (Idaho Steelheads/ECHL) – Lampl has 5 assists for the Steelheads this year, almost halfway to the number of assists he had in the entire season (12) last year. Lampl also has a plus-1 rating. Random fun fact? Cody was the first Idaho-grown player to sign with the Steelheads.

*Tyler Ludwig (Idaho Steelheads/ECHL) – Ludwig also has 5 assists for the Steelheads…big downside? He also has a minus-4 rating..

*Nino Musitelli (Allen Americans/CHL) – Musitelli is leading the team with 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists)

*Colton Yellow Horn (Allen Americans/CHL) – Yellow Horn has 11 points for Allen (3 goals, 8 assists)

*Scott Glennie (Brandon Wheat Kings/WHL) – Glennie has 2 goals and 13 assists in 16 games in his 4th season with the Wheat Kings.

I had a job interview in Frisco, Texas this past Tuesday afternoon at 2 pm. At precisely 12:31 pm , when I was 22 minutes away from the interview location, I received a call from the company saying they needed to reschedule the interview and asked if I could come in on Wednesday morning at 9 am instead. Considering the fact that I was already off work and I was very interested in this position, I replied that I could make the change. What I didn’t know at that time was that this day would be the beginning of an epic road trip. I would travel from Austin to Dallas to San Antonio to Houston to New Orleans to Lafayette to Houston and back home to Austin…1574 miles on the road….Boy, I love my Jeep.  Here are a few other things I learned on the road this week.

*When interviewing for a job, the words, “I don’t want to waste anyone’s time here” can be very valuable for both the interviewer and the interviewee. These words often trigger a brutal honesty from both parties that can cut through a lot of dancing around an unspoken issue. Such was the case with the job I interviewed for in Frisco. Throughout this job search I have run across several people who have a hard time believing I’d give up a wildly successful career in real estate for an entry level sports job. As many times as you say “It’s not about the money,” it’s still hard to convince a potential employer that you’d be happy making $30-40K a year after pulling in six figures. While I was initially asked back to Dallas for a second interview, those words led to a later phone call from the employer stating that it was likely they wouldn’t actually hire for this job for another three months, so it might be better to keep searching.

*Good friends are there for you at the times when you need them most, even if you haven’t been the best friend yourself. I absolutely adore some of the people that are and have been a part of my life, but lately with all of the job searching and moving from DC, I haven’t kept in touch with some people I should have. Somehow, those people swoop in when you least expect it and provide you with a much-needed heart-to-heart phone call and a free place to stay in New Orleans. Those people are also great at stating the obvious, but sometimes uncomfortable truth about what you should be doing with your life.

*Twitter is such an amazing connector of people.  I talked to a lot of people about Twitter on this trip…reason being? It’s part of the reason my trip went the way it did. I ended up with free tickets to the Rampage game on Wednesday night, press row seats by some awesome Houston media people for the Aeros game Friday night and some great conversations along the way. After the Twitter drama that did not involve me that I was somehow sucked into last weekend, it was really refreshing to be reminded of the other side of things.

*It is great to get outside your comfort zone at times and see the world….even if it is only Houston or San Antonio! It was nice to experience AHL games in two different arenas this week, see what types of in-game promotions other teams are doing, see things that work and things that don’t. I think a lot of times in the sports industry we get tunnel vision. The only people that travel with the team don’t really pay attention to the game production and share things they learn with others back in the trenches. I think it would serve all professional sports teams if their road crew occasionally shared some things that other cities are doing well.

*Texas Stars fans have a long way to go when it comes to getting rowdy at the games. I lived in Washington DC for four years and was lucky enough to experience the Red-ness at Verizon Center when the Caps play. Visiting Cedar Park Center for the first time, I was a little disheartened by the lack of fan-involvement in the games, but brushed it off as an AHL thing. After being in San Antonio and Houston, I think Texas just needs to step up their game. Yes, there are some people that get very involved at the games, but the Houston chants knock “Texas Stars” out of the water. Even in a huge arena the fans echo and get loud.

*I’m a very adaptable person. While it would drive some people crazy, there is something thrilling about waking up in a different city every day. Why I didn’t pursue a job younger in life where I could travel more, I don’t know. I love the constant change of scenery, meeting new people, discovering a new place. Of course, it is always nice to revisit the familiar (Julien’s PoBoys in Lafayette, oh how I love thee!!) but also fun to see new things.

What would Tousi say?

If you have managed to make it out to a Texas Stars game this year, you likely have witnessed the delightful return of the Mathieu Tousignant. Even if you aren’t a roster whiz, this kid is easy to spot with his trademark hockey smile (missing a tooth or two). Tousi, as he is affectionately referred to by fans, has been called a string of not so nice things by other teams. He is known as a pest, one of those mouthy players who knows how to get under the other guy’s skin, usually drawing a stupid penalty and giving the Texas Stars the man-advantage. We actually observed him talking to one of Peoria’s guys last night and commented on how it looked like they were laughing and joking, but what was actually being said was far from nice.

Last night someone at the Stars game told me about these shirts that a fan had made on Cafe Press and I wanted to share the link with you guys. It would be great to see these all over Cedar Park Center in support of our favorite chirper. I did not create these, nor do I get any sort of profit if you order one, just sharing something another fan did that I thought was cool. Rumor has it even Scott McCulloch now has his own Tousi shirt. Check it out on the Cafe Press sites here: http://bit.ly/Tousishirt (men) & http://bit.ly/Tousiwomenst (women).

I really thought this jersey curse thing was funny the first couple of weeks. And even when I used it to my advantage – when I wore my Texans jersey and the Cowboys beat the Texans and when I wore my Chargers jersey and I jumped ahead in my Pick ‘Em Pool by choosing the Rams in the upset. But now, this is just getting ridiculous. 7 weeks, 7 jersey curses. To be fair, I must mention that the week the Cowboys played the Titans, I wore my Titans jersey only briefly and did not work that Sunday, so the curse was not in effect. However, every Sunday I have worn a jersey to work at Third Base, that team has lost. Sorry Cincy, I love my Shipley jersey and he had a great week! But the curse still prevailed.

FALCONS over BENGALS – Early in this game it looked like the Bengals were finished, but they rallied and were able to get close to winning this one. I’ve said all year that Cincinnati has one of the best receiving trios in the league and this week Carson Palmer had time to prove it. Shipley, TO and Ocho all got a touchdown each and Shipley had his first big game with 131 yards! Unfortunately for the Bengals, Roddy White carried the receiving load all by himself for the Falcons, Michael Turner had it going on the ground…and Cedric Benson still fumbles.

RAVENS over BILLS – This game made me want to throw things at the TV. The Bills shot out to a 21 point lead and then somehow the Ravens were able to score 24 unanswered points. Elite defense? Ravens got 505 yards past them…by the Bills. Granted the defense had two interceptions and Ray Lewis stepped up in OT and stripped the ball which led to a game-winning field goal for the birds, but the Ravens will not be going to the Super Bowl with performances like that. Fitzpatrick looks like he is finding his groove with his receivers. Aside from the two inceptions, he had a good game with 374 yards and 4 touchdowns. Fantasy owners across the US are scrambling to pick him up and hoping this week wasn’t a fluke.

STEELERS over DOLPHINS – This was another game that made me want to throw things…Really Dolphins? And really officials? No evidence as to who recovered the ball? Wow…Fins should have won this one. Tough battle on both sides of the ball and Henne didn’t even throw a pick.

CHIEFS over JAGUARS – KC is trying to prove to people that they are the real deal and their running game sure tells a story. Over 200 yards on Sunday and 3 touchdowns…Chiefs are getting it done on the ground. Jags were already behind the eight-ball as another team on their third quarterback and Todd Bouman actually held it together for 3 quarters, but after a pick on an attempted pass to Johnson, it seemed as though the Jaguars just fell apart.

COLTS over SAINTS – I would love to say this was a great story in which Colt McCoy triumphed and led his team to an amazing win over last year’s Super Bowl champs, but it really wasn’t. Drew Brees had an incredibly off day and threw four picks, which just killed the Saints. McCoy only passed for 74 yards and Hillis ran for a touchdown, but it was the Cleveland defense that really showed up to play on Sunday.

REDSKINS over BEARS – Poor Chicago fans. Other than the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup last year, it seems as they are most often disappointed by their sports teams. This week Jay Cutler passed a lot…to Redskins DeAngelo Hall. Hall had a banner day and picked off Cutler 4 times. Redskins offense was also wholly unimpressive with McNabb also getting picked twice. Ugly win for the Skins.

PANTHERS over 49ers – Good on the Panthers for getting their first win of the season. Not a bad return for Moore – 308 yards, 2 touchdowns, only one interception. 49ers are going to have to make some adjustments and hope that Alex Smith gets healthy soon.

BUCCANEERS over RAMS – I heard someone say after this win that the Bucs were one of the teams to beat. I will have to respectfully disagree. You are not a “team to beat” when over half of your total points are from field goals. Teams to beat know how to find the end zone. Josh Freeman is doing a good job leading the 4th quarter comeback though..this is his 5th 4th quarter rally of 7 victories.

TITANS over EAGLES – Kenny Britt was benched during the first quarter after a bar fight earlier in the week, but he came out in the second and had a career day, catching 3 touchdown passes from Kerry Collins. Maybe the secret to getting guys to perform is to sit them for a quarter..make them prove something? It worked for Braylon Edwards earlier in the season and now it has worked for Britt. Kevin Kolb and the Eagles were just flat on offense on Sunday and never really managed to get anything going…gotta keep those QB controversy fires burning!

SEAHAWKS over CARDINALS – Seahawks top the NFC West and do it by scoring five field goals against the Cardinals. That is certainly something to be proud of…yikes. You know who is looking super smart right now? Anquan Boldin who is at the Ravens, who caught a ridiculous touchdown pass this weekend. Definitely a good career move in hindsight.

PATRIOTS over CHARGERS – Wow..the Chargers continue to be the team that has all the tools to win and somehow can’t win games. The Patriots say they are going to be fine without Randy Moss, but I don’t know that I believe it. The Chargers should have won this game, but made a couple of blunders that cost them. Thankfully for my fantasy team, Philip Rivers continues to put up the big numbers despite the Chargers loss.

RAIDERS over BRONCOS – I was watching this game at Third Base with a guy who was a Raiders fan and I am not even sure he could believe it. Raiders put up the most points ever in the franchise’s 50-year history. Broncos defense apparently took the day off and let Oakland run all over the field. Jason Campbell played like a quarterback who had Gradkowski breathing down his neck and the Raiders just killed the Broncos. Unbelievable.

PACKERS over VIKINGS – File this one under “Who cares?” for me. A lot was made pre-game about Favre returning to Green Bay…he hasn’t been there in years now. If fans are still holding onto the glory days of the Brett Favre years at Lambeau they need to move on already. The team that won this game had the least interceptions..that is about it – Rodgers was picked off twice to Favre’s 3 interceptions. Childress was furious with the bad officiating but the league office said on Monday that if he would have challenged the Packers touchdown in the 2nd quarter by Quarless it would have been overturned. As a coach you have to make those calls.

GIANTS over COWBOYS –  How close this game was is a testament to how bad the Giants really are. Eli Manning is not a good quarterback. You can tell me all day long that he has a Super Bowl ring but that does not matter. Giants won that Super Bowl with defense and on the ground. Tony Romo is likely out for at least six weeks with a broken collarbone, but before the injury, the Cowboys were playing well. Funniest comment I heard, “I didn’t know Tony Romo played defense.” Because when he went off the field, so apparently did the rest of the team mentally. The sharp execution they had of the defense in the first was all but gone for awhile. Cowboys fans better start hoping for a new coach and a high draft pick…let’s lose the remainder of the games for the season. Seriously doubt that Jon Kitna will be able to turn this team around.

Jerry Jones came out AGAIN this week after a disappointing loss to Minnesota and said that Wade Phillips job was safe for the remainder of the season. Does the man every think that if you have to keep making this statement that maybe it shouldn’t be?

VIKINGS over COWBOYS – One of the announcers after the game said it was a great game played by both teams. I would have to disagree. This was more like a game of which team was the least awful. Both quarterbacks failed to impress and Dallas gets another stupid penalty for touchdown celebration. Although I’m a big fan of the Hook ‘Em and Roy Williams, why don’t we save the celebrating for after a game we actually win? On that note, I did hear that the Cowboys have decided to ban all touchdown celebrations for the rest of the season. Perhaps this is a step in the right direction, discipline-wise.

RAMS over CHARGERS – I won my Pick ‘Em pool this week because of this upset pick. Thank you jersey curse (still going strong six weeks into the season)! Chargers prove they definitely need Antonio Gates to win games and also that stats don’t always tell a story. The Chargers are ranked 1st in the NFL in offense and second in defense, yet their record is 2-4? Just does not seem logical.

PATRIOTS over RAVENS – Hard-fought AFC battle here…worst moment of the game? Being at a sports bar when one of the managers switched the television (during overtime!) to the 3 pm game. Major FAIL. While the Ravens defense was able to intercept Tom Brady twice, Deion Branch was able to step in the hole left by Randy Moss and the team was better for it. Wes Welker manages to talk smack on Randy Moss without actually talking smack and the Patriots machine rolls on. There is something to be said for a team without guys that act like stars and just play football. On a random note, Tom Brady needs to just cut his hair. Perhaps he’s hoping to take Troy Polomalu’s spot in the Head & Shoulder’s commercials?

STEELERS over BROWNS – Biggest success of this game? Colt McCoy is still alive and not injured. I think everyone was terrified for the rookie starting in Pittsburgh against one of the NFL’s toughest defenses this week. The fact that two of Cleveland’s quarterbacks are out with injuries says one can’t rely on the Brown’s O-Line to protect him. But the Longhorn QB survived, managed to throw for 281 yards and his first NFL touchdown. Pretty sure any NFL team would have been smart to pair up McCoy and Shipley but I think Colt definitely showed some promise in an awful situation on Sunday.

DOLPHINS over PACKERS – This was another pick that wasn’t popular in my Pick ‘Em league this week, but I went for it. After being embarrassed by the Pats at home last week I didn’t think the Dolphins would let this one get away from them. I am sure if the Packers defense were healthy this would have been a different game, but the Fins pulled it together and managed to squeak out an OT win.

TEXANS over CHIEFS – This was probably my favorite game of the week. Two teams stringing together some impressive offense and battling for the win. Both quarterbacks were solid, the running games were consistent and the defense stepped up and made a few plays here and there. This was almost one of those games where whoever had the ball last won.

GIANTS over LIONS – Lions are another team now on their third QB..sigh. Poor Detroit. Seems like they just can’t catch a break. Although they did have a big win last week, this Sunday was more familiar territory as the Giants flustered them and turnovers cost them the game. Steve Smith and Mario Manningham continue to make Eli look good, but it was the Giants running game that really stood out…Bradshaw had the yards, Jacobs had the TDs. My fantasy team thanks him.

EAGLES over FALCONS – I honestly think this “quarterback controversy” is making Philly a better team. Kolb came out this week and threw for over 300 yards and 3 TDs and is doing his best to make it difficult for Vick to win back the starting job coming off of injury. Even without DeSean Jackson (who went out after a ridiculous run-in with Falcon’s Dunta Robinson), Jeremy Maclin stepped up and scored 2 TDs.

SEAHAWKS over BEARS – Seahawks proved you really don’t have to be that great of a football team as long as you can get to the Bears’ quarterback and stop Matt Forte. Cutler was sacked 6 times by the ‘Hawks and Forte was held to just 11 yards. Seahawks played tough and even took out the Bears’ punter. Ugly win, but they got the job done.

SAINTS over BUCS – Why there is the Drew Brees that fantasy owners know and love!! Even with lots of offensive injuries, it looks like Brees has finally found a rhythm with guys that are filling those spots and the Saints just might be fine this season. What many were calling Super Bowl hangover might have just been getting to know a new team as that is essentially what Brees had to do after Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas were sidelined with injuries.

JETS over BRONCOS – Not to sound like a broken record, but I’ve said it before and I will say it again. The Jets are good. LT proves once again that he’s still a running back to be reckoned with and the Jets’ D is strong. Mark Sanchez still needs to get better as a quarterback and learn how to put the ball in the end zone, but this team is one that will go far. Aside from a Monday night loss to the Ravens, the Jets are winning games.

49ers over RAIDERS – 49ers get their first win!! Hooray!! After flashes of brilliance in their win last week, Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell showed why the Redskins mercilessly got rid of him this year. This game really left me wondering if the Raiders would ever be good. They have certainly had a string of quarterback mishaps and just general awful-ness. On the flip side, Alex Smith finally connected with Michael Crabtree and made the Niners offense look decent for a game.

COLTS over REDSKINS – Peyton Manning returned to form Sunday night and won a tough game for the Colts. The Redskins certainly had opportunities with three Colts turnovers in the second half, but weren’t able to put away the win. On the plus side for the Skins, Ryan Torain attempted to end Clinton Portis’s career in DC (does anyone else besides me think this is a good thing?) by putting up a 100 yard rushing game, complete with 2 touchdowns.

TITANS over JAGUARS – Don’t blame Vince’s injury on me…I wasn’t wearing the jersey!! Since I wasn’t, Titans win and Chris Johnson and the defense run all over the Jags. Random note…no one ever really talks about Titans tight end Bo Scaife, but he’s solid in that position. Was at Texas and is certainly one of his quarterback’s favorite targets. Hasn’t put up huge numbers, but has been a great option there for some yards. Hook ‘Em.

 

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