All posts in hockey

27Apr

only in the district

“There will never be a rivalry between me and DeShawn.”

Those are the words of Cleveland Cavs superstar LeBron James from this past Friday. Thankfully, King James’ words to the media and his actions are not on the same page as this first round playoff series continues to find new ways to become more and more enjoyable. Let’s take a step back to get everyone caught up:

After the Wiz defeated the LeBrons back in March, Stevenson called LeBron “overrated.” It had less to do with King James being on the cover of Vogue that month, and more to do with stopping LeBron from hitting a game-winning shot at the buzzer. When asked for a response, James declined, saying responding to Stevenson “would be like Jay-Z saying something bad about Soulja Boy.” (Trashtalking For Dummies breakdown: I’m the best there is and he’s a one-hit wonder).

DeShawn is a smart guy, so he uses that slight as a reason to contact Soulja Boy. He catches the rapper up on the feud and invites him to join the Wizards in their playoff quest to dethrone mighty King James. Fast forward to this past week, when Soulja Boy sat courtside for the Wizards first home game of the playoffs, a 36-point rout of the Cavs, while rocking a DeShawn Stevenson jersey. If you’re in the mood for a good laugh, here’s a link to the video (courtesy of the Washington Post) of Soulja Boy doing his trademark dance and even throwing in Stevenson’s “I can’t feel my face” hand wave at the end.

Beat writers jokingly asked LeBron if Jay-Z, who by the way is a minority owner of the New Jersey Nets, would be appearing in James’ corner for game four. “No. Come on. We don’t … I’m not even going to say what I want to say,” was his response. So that’s it, end of story, right? Not by a long shot.

Mike Wise’s column from Sunday’s edition of the Post breaks the news that Jay-Z
made a diss record on Friday about DeShawn Stevenson, with Mr. Beyonce Knowles freestyling over the beat from “Blow The Whistle” by Too Short. Read that last sentence again. The biggest rapper alive crushed DeShawn Stevenson in a track specifically made for this feud that was played at Love, the same D.C. hotspot where Gilbert Arenas’ million-dollar birthday jam was held last year. Ladies and gentlemen, all we’re missing is an owner like the unstable Mark Cuban or a cameo by “Iron” Mike Tyson and this could end up becoming the biggest sports story of 2008.

People wonder how I’ve been able to brainwash my wife, who knew nothing about sports before I “saved” her five years ago. The truth is, this town does sports like no other. We’ve got Clinton Portis playing dress up during press conferences. Chris Cooley wears booty shorts and marries a Redskins cheerleader (only after she gets fired for being with him in the first place). Alex Ovechkin, the league’s best player, like to hit people as much as score goals. Sergei Fedorov was married to Anna Kournikova. Gilbert Arenas blogs about killing himself. Caron Butler went on Oprah to tell her about being a thug as a child. DeShawn Stevenson and Drew Gooden have a beard-growing competition — first one to shave reportedly loses $25,000. Seriously, this isn’t professional sports — it’s an MTV reality show. It’s the kind of crap-tastic drama that fills her gossip magazines and airs weekly on Big Brother or The Real World. You can’t pry her away from this stuff. Where else in the world would Jay-Z feel the need to pause his 43rd comeback tour to freestyle a rap dissing the fourth most popular basketball player on the team?

Only in the district. And thank God for that.

25Apr

damn the man update


A few loyal readers contacted me to point out that the link to ConcretePond’s Ovechkin t-shirt was down, so I emailed George to give him a head’s up, hoping he’d fix it so people could continue to pick up this wonderfully creative tee. Sadly, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Here’s what George had to say:

“The NHL sent me a friendly letter requesting that I not sell them anymore and there won’t be any trouble. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.”

So if you were lucky enough to order one before “The Suits” stepped in and ruined a good thing, congrats. If not, sorry about your lucky. It just seems stupid to me that the NHL would get involved in something as minor as this – especially since they’ve been dying for attention the last few years. Let’s give the t-shirt the proper send off, the only way we know how.

Goodbye.

ps — This article is one of the more enjoyable pieces written about the Caps all year long. Man crushes for everyone!

23Apr

capping off the caps

As some of you know, I’ve played on a beer league hockey team called The 5 Holes for seven years now. Well, our summer season started Tuesday night at 9:45 p.m., which was exactly when Game 7 of the Caps-Flyers series went to overtime. Half of the guys on the team are Caps fans and we have a few Flyers fans too, so it was tough heading out and playing — especially since I’d been to the first three home games in D.C. We ended up winning 7-2, which was great until we found out how the Caps-Flyers game ended.

Speaking of The 5 Holes, we’ve always gone to the same company — Concrete Pond — to order our jerseys. Well, the main guy over there, George, designed quite possibly the greatest Capitals inspired t-shirt in the history of the franchise – which can be seen on their website. George is such a great guy, he hooked my wife and I each up with a shirt prior to game one and I wore it to each of the home games. Additionally, I sent the link to Dan Steinberg, of Washington Post fame, and he dug it enough to give it some love on his blog. Now the things are selling like hot cakes, or something of equally-impressive selling quality, so go order one and tell them murf sent you.

Finally, back to the Caps. The day before the regular season finale I headed over to Kettler to watch the Caps optional practice. Their media relations guy, Nate Ewell, is a good guy and told me if I ever wanted to come out and shoot photos of practice to let him know and he’d hook me up. Well, he did. I spent the practice session in the penalty box (fitting, I know) and got some great shots. Due to popular demand, I added a handful of my shots from that day to my Flickr page, which can be found here.

23Apr

going 5 hole: the caps

Five thoughts on the day after the Washington Capitals dream ride came to an end:

1. Alexander Ovechkin, who turns 23 this September, is already the best player that the District of Columbia has had during my 31 years on this planet. We’re not just talking hockey – we’re talking across the board. Opponents have yet to figure out a weakness in his game – he hits, he passes and lord knows he can score goals.

Remember the old Russian stereotype? You know, that all Russian athletes are essentially emotionless robots like Ivan Drago from the Rocky movies. Yeah, well, he shoots that right out the window. He celebrates every moment with unabashed enthusiasm and simultaneously endears himself to the ever-growing Captials fanbase.

2. Cristobal Huet just earned himself a fat new contract and the Caps should be the team to give it to him. Let’s take a minute to point out that Montreal gave up on the guy – traded him to the Caps for a second-round pick they acquired from the Ducks for center Brian Sutherby. (Sidenote: In 45 games this year with Anaheim, Sutherby registered zero goals, one assist and 57 penalty minutes. If it weren’t for the penalty minutes you wouldn’t even know he touched the ice). Huet went 11-2 down the stretch and posted a goals against average of 1.63 and a save percentage of .936 with two shutouts. In the playoffs his numbers weren’t as good, but neither was the defense in front of him for the first three games of the series.

Contrary to popular opinion in Montreal (and really, do we want to listen to anyone who riots after the top-seeded team in the conference advances out of the first round?) Huet is a goaltender you can build a team around. Sadly, that means it’s the end of the line for Olaf Kolzig, who has been the face of the franchise since he arrived in ’89. I would hope he decides to retire to focus on the Athletes Against Autism program he cares about so deeply, but I wouldn’t hold it against him if the Caps didn’t resign him and Olie went elsewhere to close out his career. He’s earned the right to do whatever he sees fit.

3. While I’d like to see Sergei Federov return, I just don’t think it’s going to happen. He’s 38 years old and very well may retire. But, if he wants to play another season or two he’s not a lock to remain in town. Let’s not forget that the Caps already have a similar pass-first forward named Michael Nylander on the roster, and will definitely need to find room in their top three lines for him and captain Chris Clark. That probably spells the end for the former Mr. Anna Kournikova, who helped Alex and Alex more than we’ll ever know.

4. The Capitals, in my honest opinion, need two more legit defenseman to take that next step. I’ve heard from a few different places that Brian Pothier may be done (concussion), but even if he were healthy he’s not the answer. Jeff Schultz and Milan Jurcina were nothing short of a liability every time they stepped out on the ice during the playoffs. Jurcina may be 6’4″ and 233 lbs., but he cannot clear the puck out of his zone to save his life. How he sneaks onto the playing surface during a penalty kill is beyond me. I’m not kidding when I say that if I were Bruce Boudreau, I would have hog-tied him to the bench any time my squad was a man down. If he even looked at the ice I’d instruct Donnie Brashear to “ka-bong” him. Signing two veteran blue liners or one vet and bringing in a talented youngster like Calgary Hitman defenseman Karl Alzner would keep a goalie like Huet from having to stand on his head three times a game. While it’s highly exciting to watch, it would probably extend the lives of Boudreau, George McPhee and Ted Leonsis by about a decade.

5. Otherwise, the Caps look an awful lot like the 2006-7 Pittsburgh Penguins. They didn’t make it past the first round in the first dance, but the building blocks are definitely in place. Nicklas Backstrom certainly didn’t play like a rookie during the Flyers series, and except for the occasional ill-advised penalty, Alexander Semin was probably the best Capital not named Huet over the last two weeks. Mike Green is channeling his inner Paul Coffey, while Brooks Laich (who people forget came to town when fan favorite Peter Bondra was traded away) has proven more than just eye candy for the ladies — gladly filling the thankless role of “guy who repeatedly get crosschecked for an entire shift while he screens the opposition’s goalie.” If Eric Fehr, Tomas Fleischmann or any of the other young guns can make modest improvements during the offseason than this team really doesn’t need much more to become one of the league’s elite. While other teams in the local market might not be able to make the same claim, the Washington Capitals can feel confident that they’re ready to “unleash the fury” on the opposition for the forseeable future.

(photo by Brian Murphy)

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