Yes hockey fans, it is definitely August. As we impatiently wait for the hockey-shaped void in our lives to be filled this coming October, we eagerly jump on any piece of hockey-related news or gossip we can find. Overnight last night, the restless hockey media exploded with news about the expansion of the NHL into previously rumored markets such as Seattle, Las Vegas, Quebec City, and Toronto. Words like “done-deal” were liberally thrown around in news reports and twitter comments.

I’m sure I wasn’t alone in looking at a map and trying to redraw the conferences and divisions and come up with new playoff formats to fit the teams. I was not the only one to ask why now? And why does Kansas City get the shaft?

The problem is that nothing is official, the reporters cite sources close to the expansion markets, but until the NHL announces it, anything can happen. And as much as we would like to see an NHL team in Toronto, until it is officially announced, even if the sources are reliable, the NHL can back out. This could very well be just a case of NHL summer sensationalism.

But since it is the off-season and we already know based on the events of this summer that the Dallas Stars have won this years Stanley cup, we have nothing better to do than discuss what this new 34 team NHL would look like.

Why Expansion Would Happen

This season the NHL saw a change in the conference and divisional alignment due to complaints of teams in the eastern time zone like Detroit and Columbus playing in a conference with teams on pacific time, as well as teams like Dallas who had to travel across 2 time zones to play against teams in their own division. The new alignment however is lopsided, the eastern conference has two more teams than the west and one can easily see why the NHL would like to expand to fill that void. Adding a Seattle and Las Vegas could solve this problem.

Further more, Quebec City and Toronto could each easily support an NHL expansion team. Toronto has one, but NYC and LA both have two teams and the leafs have been awful for years and still sell out their arena months in advance. Quebec would welcome the return of NHL hockey just as Minnesota did (and hopefully not like Atlanta did). More markets means more money for the NHL, so everyone would be happy.

Why Expansion Wouldn’t Happen

            Las Vegas and Seattle are relatively unknown markets for hockey, so a team in these places could be a risk. Adding another team in Toronto and a Quebec City team out east would give us the same conference alignment problems since it is unlikely that the league could come to an agreement to move Detroit and Columbus back out west. Would the second Toronto team have to play in the WC, leading to more time-zone and travel issues, or would the Leastern Conference continue to have 2 more teams fighting for the same amount of playoff spots?

Likely Scenario

Most likely, the NHL will move ahead with the plan to expand into Seattle and Las Vegas as they have seemed highly interested in for years, and the other two destinations will get green-lit for an NHL team as soon as an existing team is in need of a change of scenery (Hello Quebec Panthers). Whether this will happen in 2016-17 is up in the air, but if I’m a betting man, my money is on Vegas getting a team by 2019.

NHL Draft Lottery: a Race to the Bottom

It’s that time of the year when hockey fans have nothing better to do but decide who will win the Stanley cup based on zero games played, wait to hear what other meaningless hiring’s the Toronto maple leafs will make in order to appear like they are addressing issues, and discuss rule changes for the next year.

For those unfamiliar with how the draft order is selected, the 14 teams that do not make the playoffs are seeded in reverse order of how many points they earned in the regular season with the worst team picking first and the best picking last. In this situation you win by losing as the worst team would have the opportunity to draft a possible franchise player who could step into an NHL role sooner rather than later.

Simple enough? That’s just the beginning. The 14 teams are then entered into a lottery, with the worse teams having better chances of winning the lottery. Before the lockout, the winner of the lottery moved up four places in the draft with all the teams that it leap-frogged moving back one position. After the lockout, the winner automatically moved to the first draft position.

But why complicate things? Many say that the best solution is the most elegant one, the worst team should pick first, end of story. They need it don’t they? The issue is that would encourage teams to tank in order to draft higher (see Mario Lemieux) and no franchises audience wants to watch a race to the bottom. It’s bad for competition and it’s bad for the NHL. This is especially necessary this coming year with Connor McDavid, who has been heralded as the next greatest hockey human, almost assured to be the first overall pick. It is easy to imagine teams losing in order to get this kid.

That is why it is no surprise that the NHL recently adjusted the draft lottery odds, lowering the odd’s of the worst four teams while raising the odd’s of the better ten. If you are the worst team in the league, you still only have 20% of a chance of getting Connor McDavid.

Below are the draft lottery odds

Non-Playoff Team
(Fewest Pts. to Most)
New Draft Lottery Odds Odds Under Former Allocation
1 20.0% 25.0%
2 13.5% 18.8%
3 11.5% 14.2%
4 9.5% 10.7%
5 8.5% 8.1%
6 7.5% 6.2%
7 6.5% 4.7%
8 6.0% 3.6%
9 5.0% 2.7%
10 3.5% 2.1%
11 3.0% 1.5%
12 2.5% 1.1%
13 2.0% 0.8%
14 1.0% 0.5%

Graph provided by NHL.com

But that’s OK, this Eichel kid is supposed to be another extraordinary player, the sabers would at least get him if someone else leapfrogs them in the standings, right? Well actually, the league also announced that there would be a lottery for the top three overall spots rather than just the first. So you can be monumentally awful and only pick fourth overall.

But is it enough? If the team that just comes up short of being the worst in the league in 2014-15 (NY Islanders) wins the first overall pick in the lottery, the odds that the worst team (Buffalo) wins the lottery for second pick increase. It is highly unlikely that they continue to fall.

I think there is a simpler solution that encourages teams to try to win while also giving an edge to the worse teams to win the lottery. You have 14 teams, the one with the best record should get one entry into the draft, the second best would then get two entries, and so on and so forth. This would leave the worst team with fourteen entries and a much lower advantage over its closest competition. The lottery should not be just for the first overall pick, or an arbitrarily assigned number of picks like three, but for every pick. This would make it much more risky to tank in a season, incentivizing teams to compete every year, while also giving a slight competitive advantage to legitimately bad teams.

Lorde – “Royals”

Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor, or simply Lorde, is probably the most interesting female pop singer to grace the genre since the American power duo of Gaga/Perry in 2008.  Lorde burst onto the music scene in mid 2013 with her international megahit, “Royals”, originally released on Love Club EP (which she self-released on Sound Cloud) and produced by Joel Little.  “Royals” skyrocketed to the number one spot on the US Billboard Hot 100, and thrived there for nine consecutive weeks before going six times platinum.


I don’t usually get pop songs stuck in my head for more than a few days, but “Royals” itched at my mind for several weeks- a feat usually only accomplished by great rock music.  I didn’t really begin to understand what Lorde was all about until I started watching her live performances online.  Her stage presence has a kind of primal rawness that I’ve never seen from a pop star.  She almost never opens her eyes when she sings, as if too overcome by her own music.  She doesn’t really dance, instead succumbing to seizure-like moments while clawing the air as if exorcising some kind of demon from within (probably the same demon plaguing Anthony Keidis).  She contorts violently in sync with the heavy kicks that pervade most of her music, as if constantly being electrocuted.  Her live performance is perpetually strained and frustrated.  She comes off as erotic, pissed off, and fascinating all at the same time.

Complimenting her enigmatic stage presence, and far more importantly, is her brilliant songwriting ability.  Throughout “Royals”, Lorde smartly transitions between two narrators:  a naïve child lusting for the glitz and glamour of fame, and a cynical realist who accepts her mundanely average lot in life.  The song establishes itself with a pretty basic tribal-sounding beat.  While technically simple, the sound of the drums/snaps is grandiose (just the perfect amount of reverb)- and in keeping with the song’s title.    Lorde begins by singing,

I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies.  I immediately think to myself, what the hell kind of sixteen year-old girl thinks like that?!  Normally cutting your teeth is a phrase reserved for street hustlers or battle-hardened war vets, not teeny boppers watching Romcoms.   Brilliant lyric.

No postcode envy – I wanted to believe Lorde was referencing some deep existential observation on culture or something (Post-Code Envy?), but then I realized that’s just what people outside the U.S. call zipcodes…whatever, cool lyric nonetheless!

Then the hip hop pre-chorus kicks in with the hi-hats on the sixteenths as Lorde starts name dropping brands and imagery associated with the rich.  Our naïve narrator takes us into the chorus as she abruptly snaps out of her silly daydreaming with the lyric; we’re not caught up in your love affair, and we’ll never be royals.

It is in the chorus that Lorde reveals her true lyrical genius.  This new narrator guides us through a bittersweet catharsis in which she accepts her mediocre place in the world.

It don’t run in our blood.  That kinda luxe just ain’t for us, we crave a different kind of buzz  – Whether intentional or not, some clever wordplay with the use of poor grammar, perhaps a blue collar reference?  The narrator begins to wake up and realize that what she really needs is what she already has- friends, family, spirituality, meaningful interpersonal relationships.  Life’s simplest, though sometimes most elusive pleasures.

Let me be your ruler.  You can call me Queen Bee.  And baby we’ll rule, and we’ll live that fantasy – The new narrator reaches full maturity as she redefines her new worldview.  Instead of allowing herself to get depressed over unattainable dreams, she optimistically decides to take ownership, or should I say Lordeship, over her lame reality.

My friends and I – we’ve cracked the code.

We count our dollars on the train to the party.

And everyone who knows us knows that we’re fine with this, we didn’t come from money.

This reinvented and reinvigorated narrator takes us into the second verse, confidently accepting her new kingdom of ordinary reality.  The music subtly builds with a really lovely vocal harmony and a cool reverse-synth line on the “and” of the beat.  The song’s drum ‘n bass minimalism is fantastic, and reminiscent of the Bristol sound of the early Nineties.  The song ends with a brief relapse into daydreaming with the pre-chorus, but we wake up, realizing once again that “we’ll never be royals”.

I highly recommend watching the music video in order to fully understand the genius of the song.  Directed by Joel Kefali, it’s a bizarrely simple montage of an ordinary middle class white dude doing ordinary middle class white dude things (minus a boxing match in the living room).  Sure it’s boring, but that’s exactly the kind of kingdom being referenced in the song.

Lorde’s universal message crosses all boundaries- if we cannot rule the world, we can always rule ourselves (echoing the genius of her Tears for Fears forebears).  When our vain, shallow quests for fame and fortune fail, we can at least be rulers of our own domains, no matter how uninteresting they are.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if “Royals” is secretly an indictment of our own narcissistic tendencies as a culture.  Perhaps Lorde is just making fun of all of us who elate in our disposable social media empires of food pictures, buzzfeed shares, and status updates at the gym.

It’s utterly mind-blowing Lorde wrote this when she was sixteen.  She is clearly wise beyond her years.  She’s a complicated chick and it shows.  Unlike her contemporaries such as Iggy Izaelea or Charlie XCX, Lorde processes her newfound fame in a far more intellectual and cynical way rather than merely celebrating it.  With the exception of maybe Aerosmith’s “Eat the Rich”, Lorde’s “Royals” is the most intriguing and powerful slam of not only the rich and famous, but of us all.

Tom and Justin Do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks, you’ve certainly heard about the ice bucket challenge. Basically, pour some ice water on yourself and nominate other people to do the same to raise awareness for ALS.

The rules state if you are nominated and do not complete the challenge within 24 hours, you must donate $100. I plan on donating anyway despite doing the challenge, but I encourage everyone to do the same.

My good friend Justin Tiemeyer did the challenge with me, and we relived the 2014 Winter Classic by donning the jerseys of both teams and experiencing the cold we felt on that day.

If you’d like to donate, you can visit the ALS Association website.

Anthony Mantha and the Project Karamazov Missed Opportunity

Like fellow The Longest Wind contributor Stephan Mathos, I too had an opportunity to help Justin Tiemeyer in his #ProjectKarmazov quest. While Stephan’s story ended up being a bit of bad luck, mine was more of a missed opportunity and an unfortunate circumstance.

On July 4, I had been tasked with covering the Detroit Red Wings development camp in Traverse City for Michigan Hockey Magazine. At the development camp, Red Wings’ recent draft picks and young prospects come to Traverse City for a week of drills, workouts and scrimmages, as they prepare for the next step in their hockey careers.

About half of the participants were Red Wings draft picks and signees, and the other half were junior players who were not eligible to be drafted yet, but the Red Wings had their eye on them. So, guys like Dylan Larkin, Dominic Turgeon, Tomas Nosek and coach Mike Babcock’s son Michael Babcock would all be attending the camp.

Credit: NHL.com

My future BFF. Credit: NHL.com

However, the player I was most looking forward to meeting was Anthony Mantha. Anthony absolutely tore it up in one of the Canadian junior leagues this year scoring around a goal-per-game pace. He’s the most highly touted prospect the Red Wings have had in a long time, mostly due to the fact the Red Wings have made the playoffs for the past 23 years and don’t usually get the luxury of high draft picks. The sick thing was Anthony fell all the way to 20th when the Red Wings snagged him in 2013.

But enough of me gushing over the next great Red Wing. After a two-and-a-half hour drive, I arrived in Traverse City early on the Fourth of July excited for the opportunity to speak with future Red Wings. When I told Justin I was covering the development camp and who would be there, he told me this would be a perfect #ProjectKarmazov opportunity. Most die-hard and even some casual fans know who Anthony is, and for those who don’t, they certainly will once he makes it to the NHL.

I told Justin I couldn’t make any promises. I was there, after all, to do an assignment. I wasn’t going to Traverse City on my own accord. I was there representing Michigan Hockey Magazine and needed to act accordingly. I didn’t know what the itinerary of the camp would be — if there was going to be one-on-one time with the players, how many other media members would be there or if Red Wings PR would be watching my every move making sure these kids don’t say anything they aren’t supposed to. I wanted to help Justin, but to make a personal request when I was there to do another job was the unfortunate circumstance I spoke of earlier.

Anthony was in the group of prospects that took to the ice first for drills, so his group would be the first the other media members would talk to afterward. As the players started to file off the ice, we made our way down to the locker room area. Once I entered the locker room, that familiar stench of sweaty pads filled my nostrils, the same it did when I covered my first professional hockey game just two months earlier.

I quickly found Anthony. I knew what he looked like from pictures, but it wasn’t hard to find him on this day. All of the members of the media quickly formed a half circle around Anthony and his locker room spot. He was, of course, the most highly touted Red Wings draft pick in some time, and it was a no-brainer all members of the media would want to speak with him first.

I knew this was not my time to fulfill Justin’s request. Surrounded by other members of the media who also have jobs to do, it was not my place to waste their time asking Anthony to read lines from a book. I finished my interview with Anthony and went on to the next prospect. I promised myself I would make my way back to Anthony under two circumstances 1) He was no longer talking to any other member of the media and 2) I had finished talking to everyone else I wanted to interview.

I remember speaking with Tomas, a recent signee from the Czech Republic. Like many foreign players, his English wasn’t the best, but it was a lot better than my Czech. I remember looking over to where Anthony’s locker was and saw him undressing by himself. No media members, no PR members, nobody.

This was my chance.

I told myself as soon as I was done interviewing Tomas, I would head over to Anthony’s locker and ask him to help my friend. Unfortunately, it was a struggle because Tomas didn’t understand half of what I was asking him.

I finished up my interview with Tomas, and quickly headed over to Anthony’s locker, but he was no longer there. He had either started to shower or had already gone upstairs to begin the off-ice workouts the team had planned for his group. But either way, my opportunity was gone. I would have felt weird asking a PR member to get him for me as I no longer needed him for hockey-related reasons. I had an opportunity, and I missed it.

About a month ago, I had the opportunity to interview another professional athlete in former World Series champion Steve Edlefsen. I didn’t tell Justin about this one until after it happened, and didn’t even think about it when I was interviewing Steve. This one would have worked perfectly, because there were no other members of the media there. I had one-on-one time with Steve, but it completely slipped my mind. I had another opportunity and missed it.

One of these days, I will help Justin. One of these days.

Project Karamazov: Dirk Manning


Dirk Manning. Credit: Dirk Manning.

One of my most exciting experiences from the year I lived in New York City was attending the 2008 New York Comic Con at Javits Center in Hell’s Kitchen. I got the autographs of several highly influential creators – including those of highly influential X-Men scribe Chris Claremont and infamous novelist Orson Scott Card – attended panels for Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay and Frank Miller’s The Spirit, and on Sunday I even bumped into The Daily Show‘s host Jon Stewart, who’d toted his kids along for children’s day. I showed up to let my geek flag fly, but I was also a man with a mission – to break into the comic writing business. The climax of my journey was when I mustered up the courage to walk over to then Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada and say, “Hello. My name is Justin Tiemeyer and I’d like to write for Marvel Comics.” Quesada’s response was priceless – he looked up, sighed, and said, “You have to go through the submission process just like everybody else.”

Writer Dirk Manning has had his own fair share of comic con run-ins with big names from the comic book publishing industry as described in Write or Wrong: A Writer’s Guide to Creating Comics, his autobiographical how-to guide for aspiring writers in the comic book medium. His conclusion: Don’t do it just like everybody else, because everybody else is not a paid comic writer. Most successful writers are successful only because they published their own independent comics long before Marvel or DC ever knew who they were. Manning cites Robert Kirkman’s Battle Pope, Brian Michael Bendis’s Lili, Garth Ennis’s Troubled Souls, Grant Morrison’s Zenith, and Alan Moore’s Maxwell the Magic Cat as examples (36). For Manning, it is not about spending your time mired down by the submission process of the Big Two (DC and Marvel) as Mr. Quesada suggested. In fact, he goes so far as to note that these editors cannot legally review unsolicited submissions due to intellectual property concerns (34). Manning’s key to success is making fully realized comics today. After all, what better proof could you provide an editor who wants to know if you can plot and script comics on the company’s dime than a finished comic produced on your own?

Manning’s heftiest contribution to the canon of recent literature is Nightmare World, a series of 52 horror comics originally published online at the Image Comics online imprint Shadowline, Ink. The anthology covers a variety of horror subgenres, from deals with demons (“For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”) to delinquent artificial intelligence (“Extraordinary Machine”) to hitch-hiking murderers (“Movin’ Up”), all of which contribute to a grand unified story arc combining Lovecraftian mythology with Biblical imagery focused through Dante’s Inferno and traversing the apocalypse, the rapture, and all that follows. A couple of my favorite stories are “Knee Deep in the Dead” – a comedic critique of slasher films (and particularly slasher sequels!) from Friday the 13th to Halloween – and “Hungry Like The Wolf” – a stick figure werewolf tale and also one of the more brilliant pieces in the collection due to its creative use of pictures as a substitute for speech and inner monologue. A large portion of the Nightmare World series has been published in three volumes by Image Comics which are available for purchase on Amazon.com.

In a previous draft of this post, I went into a lengthy description of how Manning is the unicorn of comic writers – a unique type of individual that few will ever encounter and that those who have encountered are not likely to encounter ever again. This is because Manning was raised on novels, novellas, and short stories, not comic books and graphic novels. In an interview with Newsarama, Manning listed some of his favorite authors as Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Edgar Allen Poe, Franz Kafka and George Orwell. Furthermore, with the exception of The Jovian in Nightmare World, Manning has no desire to write superhero stories. In this sense, Manning and I are different. My dream of being a comic book writer has always included writing big stories about my favorite comic book heroes. For Marvel, I wanted to write a post-Avengers vs. X-Men story about Cyclops abducting one-time friend Henry McCoy and travelling across space in search of Phoenix relics from other civilizations with the hope of finally reuniting with the great love of his youth, Jean Grey. I also had a pitch for Batman that I called “The Last Alfred Pennyworth Story.” It should be pretty clear that I am more of a horse than a unicorn. I want what every other aspiring comic writer wants – to have a cushy work-for-hire gig with Marvel or DC with the opportunity of developing your favorite characters for five or ten years. Manning is unique because he is repelled by that possible future and the likelihood of his creativity being stifled by excessive editorial oversight. For Manning, the greatest thing you could do is own your characters, develop them how they are meant to be developed, and make every sacrifice in making certain that your individuality is represented in the sovereignty of your own stories.

There’s more to Dirk Manning than just Write or Wrong and Nightmare WorldThere’s the noteworthy spiritual successor to Nightmare World titled Tales of Mr. Rhee, an unfinished web comic titled Farseekerand several other stories for such titles as Dia de los Muertos and Critter. For more information on Manning, feel free to visit the writer’s web site DirkManning.com, and for all the latest news follow Manning on Twitter @DirkManning.



One of the main things I hoped to accomplish with #ProjectKaramazov was to distance the project from critiques that it is an egoistic and self-serving journey where I bask in the delight of interacting with my favorite celebrities regarding my favorite book by including information about organizations that help bring about measurable good in the world. When I asked Dirk Manning if he had a favorite charity, non-profit, or other philanthropic organization that he’d like to promote, he spoke of the charity of “paying it forward.” If Manning had his way, we would all hold this one axiom in our hearts: “Do one unsolicited act of goodness for someone every day.”

Though Manning himself did not hip me to Zerobound, I thought this organization might be worthy of looking into as a means of accomplishing Manning’s ideal of a daily dose of goodness. Founders Sabrina Norrie and Kelli Space tasked themselves with finding a creative way to give students a path out of loan debt. Space had made headlines years ago when she started a web site called Two Hundred Thou where she sought out public donations in order to conquer the $200,000 in student loan debt she acquired while attending Northeastern University. Following Space’s example, Zerobound is a crowd-funding platform like Kickstarter or Indiegogo where student debtors pledge to do volunteer work at local charities and nonprofits in exchange for financial pledges from their community that are directly applied to the student’s loan debt.

If you find yourself with the ability to make a contribution toward a better future for college graduates, head over to Zerobound and make a pledge to a current campaign. If you find yourself overburdened by the yoke of excessive student loan debt and strongly inclined toward volunteerism, follow the same link and start your own campaign. Comic writer Dirk Manning was able to get the first volume of his series Tales of Mr. Rhee into comic book stores with the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign. With somewhere near 70% of the population of the United States suffocating under the force of debt, Zerobound hopes to kick start a few lives, and perhaps a struggling economy in the process, by helping graduates help themselves get out of debt.

We should all be inspired by the imperative to do a good deed daily. It should serve as an excuse to get creative in helping those around us. Norrie and Space were following this moral rule, whether they intended to or not, when they founded Zerobound. I don’t want to do anything to stifle your ability to creatively help those in need in your community, but if you’re looking for a resource to bring your giving to a new level, you could find much worse places to go than Zerobound.