Misery En Scene:Leafs vs. Sens Rookie Game

I had hoped to watch the Leafs – Sens rookie game last night, and maybe write a little bit here about the game.

Unfortunately, the game wasn’t on LeafsTV – hey, what are the chances that anyone who is willingly extorted by MLSE pays for this service would be interested in actual hockey being played by actual Leaf prospects – so I had to wait instead for the tape-delayed feed being shown on mapleleafs.com.

Actual Video Footage of Jared Cowen Skating

I don’t want to say that the online feed was difficult to watch, but let’s just say that what the video quality lacked in “herky”, it made up for in spades with “jerky”.  The video player in my browser was delivering about six frames per second;  as I tweeted earlier this evening, it occurred to me that this must be what the world looks like for Matt Carkner after he fights Colton Orr.  Anyway, I quickly found myself longing for something slightly easier on the eyes, like for example an epileptic seizure.  At one point, I thought the video feed had died completely, as the image on my screen didn’t appear to move at all for an extended period of  time.  The confusion was cleared up, however, when I realized that the camera was just showing the Senators’ Jared Cowen playing defence.

On the plus side, spending time watching the game using this feed allowed me to appreciate more fully the superior visual technologies available in today’s modern era: things like “flip-book animation”, for example.

I don’t know if anybody else was experiencing the difficulties with this feed that I was, but I sort of assumed that the Maple Leafs’ video servers were crumbling under pressure with so many people watching, just like Maple Leaf goaltenders have been doing since the lockout.  I don’t suppose it’s fair for me to wonder aloud whether fault should be found with the Leafs’ IT folks;  after all, after several consecutive years of hearing that the team is “building for the future”, who could have possibly known that many Leaf fans might have some interest in seeing what the prospects look like?  It’s planning and foresight like this that gave us the Andrew Raycroft/Vesa Toskala era, folks.

In any event, at some point I saw Jerry D’Amigo with his arms in the air, so I assume he scored a goal.  Either that, or he was trying to scare away a bear.  I don’t know, it was a little difficult to follow the narrative.  Are there many bears in the vicinity of the John Labatt Centre in London?

In the end, I have no insight to bestow upon you.  Instead, I give you a photo of the most wicked awesome baby booties ever manufactured – these were given to Spouse and I by a co-worker the other day:

Damn, those are cute.
Furious G's tootsies are gonna be covered in style.

Little known fact: the Montreal Canadiens ordered several sets of these in their team colours for Gionta, Gomez and Cammalleri.  Anyway, Furious G is going to have the coolest shoes on the block.

Stop the Internets, I Want to Get Off

I can’t stop laughing about this comment, a delectable treat appurtenant to another brilliant piece in today’s National Post by Sean McIndoe of Down Goes Brown fame.

DGB is always funny, and his piece in today’s Post is no exception.  Understand that I mean this when I tell you that notwithstanding DGB’s brilliance, the biggest and best laugh for me came after I happened to glance at the comments section (something I normally wouldn’t do at a newspaper site, for fear of having stupidity burrow through my eyes into my brain and turn me into a Hamilton City Councillor).

I’ve transcribed it here because I’m afraid the National Post will do a disservice to the history of humour in this country and consign this most excellent piece of humour writing to the digital dustbin.  In the piece, DGB sets out the good, the bad and the prognosis for ten currently unsigned free agents.  It features predictions that Darcy Tucker will sign with “Sami Kapanen’s sweat drenched nightmares” and opines that Anti Niemi was the “most over-rated Stanley Cup winning goalie in the entire league last year”.  Beneath DGB’s estimable roster of jokes, though, some ingenious wag has written:

“the most over-rated Stanley Cup winning goalie in the entire league last year.”

Now, I pride myself on knowing more than just a little about hockey having spent the last nearly 50 years involved in the sport….but please, educate me….how many other Stanley Cup winning goalies WERE there in the league last year?? I’m not arguing he was over-rated as surely this was just another example of a goalie getting hot at just the right time but please, this statement makes NO sense what-so-ever.

I love this comment as an exercise in humour writing.  It strikes the perfect balance of comic indignance, arrogance and full-throated idiocy.  Displaying a masterful talent,  the author delivers his belly laugh by crafting the comment in such a way that the “commenter” supposedly takes issue with the quality of analysis inherent in only one of DGB’s  jokes.  In this way, the author reveals indirectly that the commenter has  entirely missed the point, greatly enhancing the general comedic effect. The reader is left with the mental image of an arrogant and angry man who is prepared to accept that Mirsolav Satan was an “alternate on the NHL’s milennial all-Miroslav team” and that Jose Theodore tells “made up” stories about winning the Hart Trophy, but who will not let the Niemi analysis pass without an angry outburst.  Like I said, DGB’s piece had some great jokes in it, but this…this is something else.  It’s a masterpiece.  Only a talent of Leacockian proportions could concoct such a tremendous jest and then nestle it modestly and unceremoniously beneath the article, a comic delicacy awaiting your discovery as a hilarious and preposterous surprise.
It is made up, right?  No one actually mistook DGB’s piece for a regular sports article, right?

Predictions: Donald Fehr and the NHLPA

Hail to the Chief!
Hail to the Chief!

There was a report on TSN’s website Sunday night that the National Hockey League Players’ Association is preparing to offer Donald Fehr the top job with the union.  Those of you following along at home will recall that the last fellow who was hired to do this job, Paul Kelly, was comically and hilariously quite suddenly fired after less than two years on the job – for no particular reason that anyone could put their finger on.  Mr. Fehr, before he became a grumpy retired person, was the Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association from 1986 to 2009, and that just went swimmingly for everybody concerned.

What can we expect if Donald Fehr  becomes the next Executive Director of the NHLPA?  I fed the relevant data into the Digital Overlord (the Silicon-based lifeform in whose home Spouse and I reside, and at whose direction and behest we perform all functions in meatspace), let its hard drives, LEDs and assorted geegaws whirr away for an hour or two, and then retrieved the following scientifically guaranteed predictions concerning future events in the NHL:

  1. April 1st, 2010 (morning):  ESPN reports Donald Fehr officially announced as new Executive Director of the NHLPA.   For two hours, National Hockey League President Gary Bettman refuses to believe that this announcement is anything but a cruel April Fool’s joke, just like that time that Sports Illustrated published the story about Sidd Finch.  After lunch, Bill Daly arrives and shows Bettman a copy of the story confirming Fehr’s hiring in the New York Times.  Realizing the story is true, Bettman pees a little on his fancy President chair, hops down from it and runs into the Executive Washroom.  He refuses to come out of the bathroom for six hours.  League staff swear that, through the heating vents, they can hear someone sobbing and cursing Eric Lindros’ name.
  2. April 1st, 2010 (afternoon): Fehr gives an interview to Stephen Brunt of the Globe and Mail.  Brunt asks Fehr what reason he had for changing his mind about retirement.  Fehr says, “I’m only 62 years old;  I wasn’t ready to spend my time  playing golf in Vegas with a bunch of ninety-year old men.”
  3. April 2nd, 2010: Fehr takes a congratulatory call from recently-elected Atlanta Thrashers Player Representative Chris Chelios, who inquires about getting together for a round after the NHL Awards.  For the first time, Fehr wonders if he’s made a horrible mistake.
  4. September 1st, 2010: At the end of his first month in office, Fehr declares himself “up to speed” on the business of hockey and calls a press conference.   He publicly denounces the league in general and Commissioner Bettman in particular for wrongfully depriving players of their rightful share of vast sums of money earned by the league from the U.S. Network television deal.  “Obviously,” Fehr is quoted as saying, “that pittance that Versus is paying the league can’t be the only national TV revenue coming in from all of America.  I mean, come on;  Versus isn’t even a real network.” He goes on to point out that NHL games also appear on NBC, and says the players don’t seem to be getting their share of any NBC rights money, saying.  “It’s NBC;  they’ve gotta be paying the league something, right?”  Entire room bursts into laughter;  Fehr looks confused and storms out.
  5. September 2, 2010: Previously cozy relationship between the NHLPA and NHL is torn asunder.   Bettman is deeply offended by the allegations of deceit and will not return Fehr’s phone calls.  As a result, a work stoppage ensues.  For six continuous weeks, Fehr’s own staff work daily to convince him that the Versus revenues really are the only U.S. TV money.  When he finally comes to the realization that this is true, a further six weeks of work stoppage follow merely because Fehr does not want to apologize to Bettman.  “After all,” he confides to an assistant, “if I say I’m sorry, I’m just going to have to sit next to that fucking guy at the All-Star Game.”
  6. October 16th, 2010: Plans to accuse NHL owners of colluding with one another to artificially depress the free agency market are scrapped when Fehr – who has still never even been to a hockey game – learns that in the summer of 2009, the Montreal Canadiens agreed to pay 35 year-old defenceman Jaroslav Spacek $3.8 million dollars a year, for each of the next three years, to not score any points for their team.  Fehr, who knows so little about hockey that he calls goalies “backcatchers”, immediately calls Bob Gainey’s number.  When Gainey answers, Fehr simply says, “You’re a fucking idiot,” and hangs up.  Coincidentally and unbeknownst to Fehr, this is the 215th consecutive day on which Gainey has received such a phone call.
  7. November 1st, 2010: NHLPA Player reps, concerned about previous incidents in which union leadership surreptitiously read their personal correspondence, conduct a secret surprise inspection of Fehr’s office and computer.  They are relieved to find that Fehr has not had access to any player email.  They are, however, disturbed to learn that he has apparently been spending seven to ten hours a day on Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com and Craigslist.  Worse still, they find a partially completed job application in his name that appears to come from the Starbucks across the street.
  8. December 22nd, 2010: Fehr is photographed sitting on the lap of a shopping mall Santa Claus;  bystanders swear that he was overheard asking Santa for an important job in  a more popular and widely known sport, like maybe the B.A.S.S. Pro Tour, the Pro Bowler’s Association or the National Pinochle Tour.
  9. March 1st, 2011: Concerns that the NHL’s new “head shot” rules would be difficult for officials to enforce prove unfounded when it is announced that the cranial circumference of all NHL players has increased by 50%.  Players’ heads become impossible to miss, obscuring many fans’ view of the video scoreboard above centre ice, and all body contact is eliminated from the game entirely.  Fehr declares the NHL’s substance abuse policies a success, excuses himself from the press conference and goes to work at his other job: selling popcorn at the Cineplex Odeon.
  10. March 15th, 2011, 11:39 p.m: Fehr is invited to attend a hastily-called meeting in Rome, New York that he is told is intended to celebrate the 1st anniversary of his hiring.  He points out to one of the fellows in the room – a guy that he hasn’t seen around the office before, but who looks suspiciously like Eric Lindros – that he hasn’t worked for the PA for a year yet.  Other players keep referring to this guy as “Brutus” and laughing.  A group of player reps approach him from behind and begin patting him – perhaps a bit too vigorously – on the back.  Fehr wakes up in the emergency room with several knives protruding from his back and a crumpled pink slip in his hand.  The fellow they kept calling “Brutus” is having a conversation with one of the E.R. doctors and is insisting that since Obamacare got passed, there must be a death panel that could “take care” of the guy he brought in.  Doctors refuse to comply with the man’s request, but do insist that Fehr get off the gurney and work his scheduled evening shift emptying bed pans in the geriatric ward.
  11. March 16th, 2011: Fehr attempts to send his letter of official resignation to interim executive director Eric Lindros, but learns that Lindros has himself been deposed by a heretofore unknown faction of Sandanista guerillas within the NHLPA.  That faction was replaced an hour later by Fidel Castro, who lasted fifteen minutes until he was himself replaced by a particularly militant Bobby Orr-emblazoned thermos that had been stored in an office closet since 1971.

CSI: Winter Wonderland

(With apologies to John Moe for totally ripping off his excellent stuff:)


Police were dispatched to a location in the general vicinity of complainant’s residence on the morning of December 25th in relation to a report of a deceased elderly female.  Upon arrival, officers spoke to complainant/reporter, who advised that the deceased – who he referred to as “Grandma” –  had been struck and killed by reindeer en route from complainant’s residence at an unknown point during the previous evening.  Officers responding to the scene requested that detectives from the homicide unit attend, as complainant told police that one Santa CLAUS (d.o.b. unknown) is responsible, though complainant did not actually observe the alleged incident in question.  Detectives advised complainant that CLAUS is not a viable suspect, in view of his fictional nature.  Complainant insisted that he and his father “believe.”  Homicide investigation commenced.

Police believe alcohol played a role in the incident.  Deceased last seen alive by a witness who indicates that deceased had been consuming egg nog to excess prior to departing from a nearby residence, apparently seeking certain (unspecified) medications (a toxicology work-up has been requested).  Witness observed indicia of physical impairment, as the witness indicates that deceased was seen to “stumble” as she departed into the snow.

Deceased was discovered this morning with obvious  trauma to the head and torso.  It must be noted for continuity purposes that the crime scene was not secure, as family members appear to have attended and conducted their own investigation prior to contacting police, compromising officers’ ability to examine the scene for sleigh or animal tracks, and other items of possible evidentiary value.  Relatives of the deceased are adamant that markings on the deceased’s forehead are consistent with hoof-related injury, and further that abrasions noted on deceased’s back may be  forensically linked to CLAUS.  Crime lab has been requested to locate and dispatch a pathologist with expertise in injuries inflicted by larger mammals.

Deceased’s husband was not prepared to give a statement to police, claiming he was too distraught to do so.  Suspicions of police, however, were later aroused when the man was observed watching televised football and socializing over cards with a “cousin” named “Belle.”   Officers also observed several family members (descriptions unavailable, as all were wearing black) attempting to tamper with evidence at the home, variously and inconsistently claiming that they wished to either open the deceased woman’s gifts or return them to the point of purchase.   The scene has since been taped off and the gifts in question secured by officers for subsequent expert examination.  Ident unit dispatched to take photos of various areas of the subject residence, in particular a dining room in which officers noted a prepared goose and a pudding containing pork products.  Police specifically requested that the assigned pathologist rule out food-borne illness and/or heart disease during conduct of autopsy.   Dining room also noted to contain a table with a candle, blue and silver in colour, the shade of which is suspiciously and strikingly similar to the material used to create the deceased’s wig.

Police learned that at least one unknown family member was alarming nearby residents, warning them to beware of CLAUS’ reckless sleigh operation.  It may be that this individual was attempting to deflect suspicion as this individual has also reportedly been agitating against the government’s decision to issue vehicle permits to sleigh-operators and circulating rather fantastic rumours among neighbours that the killer consorts with elves.

Police re-iterated to family that CLAUS is not a suspect in this occurrence;  family continues to insist that he is responsible.

Homicide investigation ongoing.  Surveillance of deceased’s husband and his new companion recommended.

Phil Kessel: The True Story

Imagine, if you will, Brian Burke sitting at his desk in the MLSE offices today.   Any GM

Clancy is an intimidating ghost
Clancy is an intimidating ghost

of the Leafs  is no doubt a busy man, but  Burkie’s recently been a bit busier than most.  On top of the usual day to day stuff, he’s still dealing with some of the remnants left behind by the previous occupant of the office:  emptying the crayons from the top drawer in the desk, tossing out the half-finished Word Jumbles and comic books scattered throughout the office and executive bathroom, and (most labour intensive of all) scrubbing  the yellow highlighter off the computer screen.

Imagine that as Burke is attending to these various tasks, shuffling things about on the managerial desk, he finds a dented and scratched old coffee can that’s filled with a bunch of dust.  The magic marker/masking tape label has long ago faded and is now illegible.  What Burkie can’t know is that the battered tin, a relic from days gone by, contains the ashes of a deceased player  – unceremoniously stored there years ago after the player’s cremation by a skinflint owner determined to economize wherever possible .

Seeing the tin, Burke is puzzled. He feels sure he would have noticed the disfigured canister on his desk before, but he has not.  He picks it up to examine it, and as he does so, it tumbles from his hands to the floor.  A pile of dust spills on to the plush blue carpet; there is a flash of light and a puff of smoke.   Burke rubs his eyes in disbelief and stares at the apparition that now stands before him in the office.

Something very rare and incredible has happened:  Brian Burke is speechless.

Slightly less unusually, the ghost of a hockey player dead for more than 23 years has spontaneously appeared in a downtown Toronto office building wearing full equipment and a period uniform.

The ghost appears as he did on the night of March 17, 1934:  wearing a bright green sweater with a large shamrock emblazoned across the back where his trademark number 7 ordinarily appeared.  He is carrying a stick and wearing skates. He is pale and very obviously dead.

GHOST: Greetings, Mr. Burke.  I (dramatic pause) am…

BURKE: (recovering his senses)   Great, another stick-wielding zombie  in my office.  Look, I told Chris Chelios just a couple days ago, we’re not looking for any undead players at this time..

GHOST: Silence!  Speak not, mortal.

BURKE: (rising from his chair) What the hell?  Listen pal, nobody talks to me like that, and certainly not in my office.

Leagues of Nations: Enough. No, Leafs, No!

No. Not "Leafs Nation"
No. Not "Leafs Nation"

I’m going to go ahead and say it – fuck “Leafs Nation”.  Strange words to hear from a lifelong Leafs fan and recent contributor to the Maple Leafs Annual?  Maybe.  Hear me out.

Kim Jorn, Godd Till and mf37, the Three Amigos of the Barilkosphere, have combined their considerable forces to launch a new blog called Zambonic Youth.  Armed with a somewhat confusing but nevetheless distinctly unsettling manifesto that takes time out from hockey issues to warn against the coming cyptozoological war, the electronic Zambonic goes sardonic on the Leafs Abomination lexiconic – yo they be riffin’ supersonic’ like the London Philharmonic¹ – on the recent Random House offering by Dave Feschuk and Michael Grange, Leafs Abomination.

Mf37 concludes his review thusly:

One last message: whatever you do, don’t buy this book.


One of the authors’ central arguments about the Leafs is that fans have supported crap for far too long and that support is partially responsible for perpetuating a four-decade string of mediocrity.

If you shovel $20 at product like this, there’s a real danger that it’s only going to encourage more publishers to hire basketball writers to pen a half-baked book about your favourite hockey team. And no matter what franchise you’re a fan of (and there are plenty of them that have gone 30+ years without a Cup to chose from) no good can come from that.

I believe the appropriate phrase would be “hoist by their own petard.”  Nicely played.

I have to say that this book does seem to be the lexical equivalent of a Howard Berger blog post, squarely raising the issue of why it wasn’t released in November, when things matter.  Others have rightly pointed out the hackneyed resort to cheap tricks like the upside down Leaf on the cover, the supposed selling price of $19.67, the guy on the cover with the bag on his head and so on.  I don’t know whether Feschuk and/or Grange were involved in making those design choices, but it doesn’t sound as though these features of the book’s exterior are thematically inconsistent with the actual content of the tome.  At the very least, Feschuk and Grange would seem by inference to be implicated as being complicit in this lazy and blatantly obvious resort to familiar cliches.  The whole idea (of both cover and book), presumably, is  to attempt inflame those who retain the capacity to be astonished by such nakedly calculated shit-disturbing and thereby gain publicity for the publication (remember the Maclean’s issue purportedly dedicated to exploring “Why the Leafs Stink“?  Bet that issue, sporting the Leaf-bashing cover story sold a shitload of copies too.)   All in all, shame on Messrs. Feschuk and Grange for falling victim to the sporting world’s equivalent of populist demagoguery.

For my own part, I am going to take the opportunity presented by the release of this book and the consequent recent focus on these tired memes to make a declaration.  I am going to formally and officially express my discomfort with the term “Leafs Nation”, a (hilariously witty, no doubt) perversion of which phrase  serves as the title for the Feschuk/Grange offering.

Portrait of the Artist as a Wrung Man

I have been working all day on a writing project that is due shortly.  The “writing process” (by which I mean “staring at the screen wondering what the hell I’ve gottem myself into”)  was going painfully slow a bit earlier,  so Spouse convinced me to take a break to go into town.  We had dry cleaning to pick up and it just so happens that there’s this little ice cream stand right next door to the shop.

Admit it: you thought this paragraph was going to be about me getting ice cream all over the dry cleaning, didn’t you?  Sorry to disappoint – all clothing has successfully been retrieved from the cleaners and is safely back inside the house with little or no additional patina of melted ice cream.  I am an idiot;  just not that kind of idiot.

While we were driving back home, I mentioned that I needed to repair to Mission Control with all due haste, so that I could “art my writicle.”

Oh dear.  This might be tougher than previously expected.

On Birthdays

When I was younger, birthdays were an event.  As a child, there were parties to be held, loot bags to be distributed, toys to be acquired, opened, assembled and played with, not to mention occasionally repaired immediately thereafter.  As a young man, there were social outings with friends to be organized;  alcohol to be consumed;  hangovers to be survived.   Birthdays were significant and complicated social occasions, the enjoyment and success of which were difficult things to evaluate.

I am now 43, and things have changed.  I have significantly simplified the criteria for assessing the success of a birthday.  For a successful birthday, I must:

  1. Go home early from work;
  2. Eat tacos for dinner; and
  3. Not get injured in any way during the day.

I am pleased to report that yesterday, Spouse and I managed to go three for three – though it was touch and go on number one there for a while, and it is debatable whether leaving the building at 4:58 really counts as “going home early”.  Nevertheless, I prefer to declare the day a success.

One more lap around the sun successfully completed.