Stanley Cup Thoughts: Game One

Not the most exciting game of these playoffs so far, for sure (that distinction could go to about five of the Western Conference Finals games), but a very exiting last seven or so minutes as the Hawks began to use their superior depth and experience to steal game one.

Here are a few of my thoughts after the Blackhawks took Game 1 2-1 in Tampa Bay.


With 22 saves on 23 shots (more on the one that went in in a bit), Crawford is the sole reason this game wasn’t out of hand in favor of Tampa early.

The Blackhawks had hardly any puck possession in the first period, were soundly outshot early, and the scoring chances in the first period were hugely in the Lightning’s favor,

scoring chances game one

via War On Ice

although that changed as the game went on.

With the huge scoring chance advantage and puck possession advantage, without the stellar play of Crawford, this could have been over early.

And late in the game, Ryan Callahan for Tampa had a breakaway chance that could have put Tampa Bay up 2-0 over halfway through the 3rd, but coming way out of his net, Crawford made the save, which you can see here.

After that save, the game changed, but Crawford made sure that the Hawks held the lead once they got it.


There has been a huge amount of attention given to the first two lines for the Lightning, the Stamkos line that came through big in the Eastern Conference Finals and the Triplets line led by Tyler Johnson who leads the NHL Playoffs in scoring.

However, in this game, it was the fourth line and third line that came through for the Hawks while the top two lines for each team were relatively silent.

Teuvo Teravainen, the 20 year old rookie for the Blackhawks, was out there with Kruger and Shaw, who (along with Desjardins) are fourth liners, when Keith (who I think is going to win the Conn Smythe, the playoff MVP) made a great play to get the puck to Teravainen who put the puck through the traffic and past Bishop who didn’t see it at all.  (You can watch the play here).

Less than two minutes later, Teravainen makes a great steal and gets the puck to Vermette in front of the net. (Watch it here).

The Hawks needed both those great Teravainen plays and goals because before that, it was 1-0 Lightning, and that goal was a beauty.


Jun 3, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn (17) redirects the puck past Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) for a goal in the first period in game one of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Killorn had one of the greatest goals I’ve ever seen.  A backhand redirect of the puck in midair was the first (and only) goal for the Lightning in game one.

Crawford didn’t have a prayer of stopping this, as it appeared that it was destined to go far wide of the net.  It would have if not for the amazing hand-eye coordination of Killorn.

You can see this goal here.

One of the best goals in Stanley Cup history, but a 1-0 lead wasn’t enough to beat the Mighty, Mighty Blackhawks.


Which brings us to the final point I have after Game one.  Many people, including the Lightning players themselves, are blaming Tampa Bay’s taking the foot off of the gas towards the end of the game for the Blackhawks’ ability to get back in this game.

However, I think we need to give more credit to the Blackhawks.  They were completely unable to win puck battles early.  The Lightning opened the game winning the great majority of the face-offs.  However, after the first period, both of those things began to shift.

I don’t think that the Lightning were letting up so much as the Blackhawks were finally able to turn things on themselves.  The Hawks dominated face-offs as the game went on and began to win puck battles.  Every time there was a loose puck as the game went on, the Blackhawks managed to get it on their stick, sometimes even when the puck wasn’t loose as Teuvo did on the game winning goal.

Not enough credit is being given to the Hawks for how the end of the game went.

If the Lightning think that they just need to do something different at the end of the game, rather than recognizing that the superior depth and experience of the Blackhawks played a huge role in the end of this game, this series could be over sooner than most people thought possible.

We’ll find out Saturday.  Game 2 is scheduled for 7:15 EST on Sat evening.  I think it is a must win for the Lightning.  If the Blackhawks are headed back to Chicago up 2 games to none, this series will be over.

Sunday Roundup: #Selma50, Red Wings, and Social Justice Warriors

It’s Sunday and it is time to catch up on the best the internet had to offer during the past week. If you have any article suggestions for the Sunday Roundup send me a tweet @tbone1225.

Glendening hamstrings Red Wings top line

Tom Mitsos disputes Mike Babcock’s decision to put Luke Glendening on the top line with Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Tatar in his article “Red Wings: Why is Luke Glendening Getting Top-Line Minutes?” for The Hockey Writers.

Red Wings goalies: Mrazek elite, Gustavsson obsolete

“Gustavsson’s time in Detroit was great, but it’s time to end the experiment and look toward the future.” While Tom Mitsos is thankful for the service of goalie Jonas Gustavsson, he makes the case for the Detroit Red Wings investing in Petr Mrazek instead in his article “Time For the Jonas Gustavsson Experiment to End” for The Hockey Writers.

A #Selma50 tour of the Freedom Movement in Mississippi

Richard Thomas details how the freedom movement in Mississippi required different strategies than anywhere else in his article “Lessons from #Selma50: #1 Medgar Evers and organization #TCUCRBT” for The Resist Daily.

Next stop, Alabama: #Selma50 tour continues

In his article “Lessons from #Selma50: #2 Bloody Sunday,” Richard Thomas of The Resist Daily describes the systemic inequalities many residents of Selma, Alabama have faced and continue to face today.

Red Wings potential first round playoff matchups

Tom Mitsos of The Hockey Writers forecasts a few of the more likely first round matchups in his article “Red Wings’ Possible Playoff Matchups.”

Social Justice Warriors and the wake they leave

“Organizing, advocacy, agitating, etc. is not about social or moral purity. Calling out injustice is not about bullying individuals but about naming a visible problem.” Gabe Pfefer discusses privileged apathetic approaches to social justice that ultimately create more problems in his post “For the Last Time, Social Justice Activism is not about Ideological Purity” on Ephphathoughts.

Holy anger in the face of injustice

Gabe Pfefer discusses how anger can be valued negatively or positively depending on its context, expression, object, and purpose in his post “Anger What Is It Good For? Quite A Lot Actually.” on Ephphathoughts.

Sunday Roundup: Red Wings prospects, Northern Racism, and Lentsploitation

It’s Sunday and it is time to catch up on the best the internet had to offer during the past week. If you have any article suggestions for the Sunday Roundup send me a tweet @tbone1225.

Things you’ve always wanted to know about the Red Wings

Tom Mitsos answers questions about the Red Wings in his mail bag post for The Hockey Writers. As an added compare/contrast bonus, Ansar Khan answers the same questions at MLive.

Racism is alive and well in northern states

“The perfect storm of Northern amnesia and largely white rural-sides weave a story that claims that Northern racial tensions (if they exist at all) only seem to occur in large cities where blacks are concentrated; thereby subtly implying that the issue is the very presence of said communities.” Guest writer Nathan Lewis Lawrence writes about manifestations of white supremacy in northern states in general and Ohio specifically in his post “Four Things You Didn’t Know About Northern Racism” for The Resist Daily. Check out his other writings at his blog Taming Cynicism.

Petr Mrazek won’t be stuck in the AHL for long

“[Mrazek is] the future goalie for the Red Wings, but he’ll need some time to adjust to the NHL.” Tom Mitsos talks about the short- and long-term possibilities for goalie Petr Mrazek in his article “Red Wings Prospect Petr Mrazek Motivated to Improve” for The Hockey Writers.

Is Marchenko a good defensive fit for the Wings?

Tom Mitsos discusses the need for right-handed defenseman Alexey Marchenko on the Red Wings in his article “Do the Red Wings Need to Trade With Alexey Marchenko?” for The Hockey Writers.

Exploited foreign workers and the spiritual season of Lent

“I think it is appropriate here to illustrate the exploitative nature of outsourcing through the context of the current season of Lent.” With the religious observance of Lent in mind, Richard Thomas discusses concepts of freedom in the face of oppressive economic institutions in his article “Our Bondage And Our Freedom: on Lent and neoliberalism” for The Resist Daily.

Sunday Roundup: Party Philosophy, Petr Mrazek’s Fate, and Selma

It’s Sunday and it is time to catch up on the best the internet had to offer during the past week. If you have any article suggestions for the Sunday Roundup send me a tweet @tbone1225.

Andrew WK tweet of the week

Straight up zen!

You can never have too many goalies

“I’ve said in the past that Mrazek has done all that he can in the AHL. He has more than 50 wins and backstopped his team to a Calder Cup during the 2012-13 season. He has nothing left to prove at that level.” Tom Mitsos discusses goalie Petr Mrazek’s likely fate after head goalie Jimmy Howard returns in his article “Has Petr Mrazek Played His Way Onto Red Wings” at The Hockey Writers.

It’s a good time for social justice cinema

“It’s no laughing matter to see enslaved Black persons being beaten on the big screen. These social justice films are enjoyable, but I would not say that they are entirely pleasant experiences. We’re not talking about rom-coms here.” Rod Thomas of The Resist Daily shares his critical observations about the Ava Duvernay film Selma in an article titled “5 Takeaways from #Selma @SelmaMovie.”

Miracle: the Russian perspective

“[I]t was Tarasov’s love of the game and big-hearted nature that helped the Soviet Union players fall in love with the sport.” Tom Mitsos reviews ESPN’s new 30 for 30 hockey-umentary “Of Miracles and Men” for The Hockey Writers.

From Becky to Bechdel

Comedy gold.

Defense fails Mrazek in Red Wings loss to Penguins

“Mrazek most likely played his last game in Detroit for a while, now that both Howard and Jonas Gustavsson are healthy.” After a difficult loss to the Penguins, Tom Mitsos laments Petr Mrazek’s relatively short season as goaltender for the Red Wings in his article “3 Observations from Red Wings’ Loss to Pittsburgh” on The Hockey Writers.

The hypothetical cost of Kessel

“It’s a very solid lineup for sure. Kessel on the top line with Pavel Datsyuk and Justin Abdelkader is a dream lineup, and the possibility of Henrik Zetterberg taking Abdelkader’s spot on the wing only makes the line that more dangerous.” Tom Mitsos weighs the pros and cons of the Red Wings trading a big chunk of their roster for Toronto’s Phil Kessel in his article “Red Wings Hypothetical Trade: How Much for Kessel?” for The Hockey Writers. Special thanks to hockey analytics researcher David Malinowski for the prompt.

Goalie Tom McCollum on his time with the Red Wings

Tom Mitsos and The Hockey Writers interview Red Wings goalie prospect Tom McCollum about his short stint in Detroit, his continued presence with the Grand Rapids Griffins, and how he got into hockey in the first place.

Sunday Roundup: Croatia’s Jubilee, Hockey’s Biggest Coaching Foible, and To Kill a Mockingbird Sequel

It’s Sunday and it is time to catch up on the best the internet had to offer during the past week. If you have any article suggestions for the Sunday Roundup send me a tweet @tbone1225.

Red Wings need to work on their penalty kill

“When you already are down a man, chasing the puck is the worst sin you can commit on the penalty kill, especially if you are facing a team that is good at cycling the puck.” Despite a winning record, the Red Wings have had some serious problems shoring up their penalty kill. Tom Mitsos discusses ways the team can overcome this issue in his article “How to Fix the Red Wings’ Penalty Kill” for The Hockey Writers.

Croatia is just the latest in a long line of debt cancellation programs

“Whatever happens in this latest game of brinkmanship between creditors and debtors, history shows that mass debt write-offs are neither as rare nor as taboo as we might think.” From the early Jewish concept of the “Year of Jubilee” and the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi to post-war debt forgiveness plans in France, Greece, Italy and Germany, Telegraph writer Mehreen Khan explains how debt cancellation has been a central tenet of many of history’s greatest economic success stories. Check out Mehreen’s article “The biggest debt write-offs in the history of the world” and the book that inspired it titled This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly by Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff.

Seahawks decision to pass at the 1-yard line is NOT the biggest coaching foible of all time

After the Super Bowl, football fans were quick to label Pete Carroll’s fateful decision to pass instead of run the ball as the worst coaching mistake of all time, but to Tom Mitsos of The Hockey Writers that award goes to Soviet Union ice hockey coach Viktor Tikhonov who pulled goalie Vladislav Tretiak, who was touted as the best goalie in the world, resulting in a loss to the United States in the 1980 Olympics. “Tikhonov even admitted pulling Tretiak was the worst mistake he ever made, and no one knew Tretiak as an athlete better than Tikhonov.” For more, read Tom’s article “Bigger Coaching Gaff: Viktor Tikhonov or Pete Carroll?”

Harper Lee’s sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird

The internet was set ablaze following the discovery of a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee. Comic writer Paul Cornell and Twitter wisdom curator Jon Winokur were among the many who took this to heart in their daily Tweets.

A great season for Darren Helm, Luke Glendening, Justin Abdelkader, and Kyle Quincey

While many Red Wings fans will attribute the team’s recent bout of success to Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Tatar, and Nyquist, their assault on the top spot in the Atlantic Division wouldn’t be possible without Michigan natives Luke Glendening, Justin Abdelkader, formerly injury-prone center Darren Helm, and Kyle Quincey, the defensemen that many fans last year would have been happy to get rid of. “When general manager Ken Holland re-signed Kyle Quincey to a two-year deal alst summer, it reeked of a panic move after he struck out on all of the free agent defensemen he was pursuing. However, Quincey has been one of the more consistent defensemen for the Red Wings this season.” Tom Mitsos breaks down the reasons to celebrate these four players in his article “4 Red Wings Having Surprisingly Good Seasons” at The Hockey Writers.

For the right price the Red Wings might welcome Toronto’s Cody Franson to Detroit

“In the end, the price has to be right for Franson, whether the Red Wings can get that price will decide whether they should pull the trigger or stand pat.” Tom Mitsos responds to trade deadline speculation that right-handed defenseman Cody Franson might be coming to Motown. While it is clear that Franson would be a great fit in Detroit, many fans are uncomfortable with the potential cost. Read Tom’s article “Red Wings Trade Talk: Is Cody Franson the Missing Piece?” featuring the expert testimony of The Hockey Writers Maple Leafs contributor James Tanner.

Expect a better second half of the season from Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha

“[N]ow that [Mantha] has 35 games under his belt, he’s no doubt got a good grasp of what will and will not work at the AHL level.” Though 20-year-old junior league star Anthony Mantha has not been measuring up to the high expectations set for him this season, writer Tom Mitsos remains optimistic about his future as the 2014-15 season marches toward its conclusion. Check out his article “Anthony Mantha Determined to Have Better Second Half” at The Hockey Writers.

How cosplay is the great equalizer

Comic book writer Dan Slott decided to post an uplifting tweet on Saturday:

Dan Slott currently writes Amazing Spider-man and Silver Surfer for Marvel Comics.

How lame is that? Mascots in professional hockey

The Dallas Stars in recent years have become one of the more exciting up and coming franchises as they have seen new ownership, a new general manager, head coach, color scheme, logo, uniform, and a completely retooled line-up that saw the Stars return to the post season for the first time since 2008 with only one player on the roster from that 2008 team. They are gaining traction as the twitter world and hockey blogger communities sweetheart and generally believed to be returning to the glorious team they were in the mid to late 90’s. But they are missing one key component to become a true NHL power house, and I’m not talking about a #1 defenseman.

What the team that brought ice-girls to the hockey world sorely lacks is a horribly cheesy, cringe-worthy mascot.

But it appears that is about to change. The winners of the 2014 off-season are poised to introduce their first ever mascot, and all we know is that it will have over sized sneakers to walk on and a cowboy-boot-hockey-skate-hybrid for on the ice.

So how does a team like the Stars come up with a mascot? Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst that the NHL has to offer, and see what the stars can learn from them.

Before we start, can we all agree that the Montreal Canadians win the greatest mascot of all times with Youppi! He is a furry guy, his name is the french word for Yippee!, he has an exclamation point in his name and his jersey number is also an exclamation point! It does not get any better than that.

The runner up is obviously Wild Wing of the Anaheim Ducks, but they really had an unfair advantage as a Disney originated sporting franchise. Disney has a history of successful mascots, and the Ducks were able to pluck theirs directly out of the Mighty Ducks cartoon that is based off of Disney’s the mighty ducks movie.

But the stars do not have a disney cartoon to draw from, and the glory of Youppi! cannot be replicated. Additionally, it is not as easy for the Stars as it is for a team like the penguins, who obviously made their mascot a penguin, and the coyotes understandably have a coyote.

The following is a list of do’s and don’ts for selecting a mascot


  • Crawl into the crevasse, the cheesier the better, embrace it. See Harvey the Hound
  • Draw upon your teams name-sake. See SJ Sharkey
  • Draw upon your city or states culture. See Gnash the saber tooth tiger drawing upon the first archaeologically excavated cave site in America which is near Nashville.


  • Make your mascot a bear if you are not the bruins. See St. Louis, Toronto
  • Change your mascot to a St. Bernard when you have a perfectly good Yeti a la Colorado
  • Have your mascot be a green colored bee when your team is called the blue jackets
  • Anthropomorphize a whale. Hartford did it perfectly the first time. There can be only one, and his name was Pucky.

So where does this leave the stars? Obviously they need a big ugly star with boots on, a la this lovely toddler costume except with cowboy boots.

Please feel free to post your thoughts on a future Dallas Stars mascot, or who gets your vote for the best mascot in professional hockey.


The stars have selected their mascot. Victor E. Green, and from what I can discern, he’s a fuzzy green Nerds candy, with cowboy boots and hockey sticks coming out of his head. Something for everyone.

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

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.

Game 7

I’m a huge Hawks fan, having grown up in Chicago, and these last few years have been a stellar time to be a fan of the Chicago Blackhawks.  In the last five years, the Hawks have won the best trophy in sports twice and are still alive for a third in the last five years.

In order to achieve that third Stanley Cup Championship in the last five years, the Hawks will first have to get past the Los Angeles Kings in a Game Seven Sunday night in Chicago at the Madhouse on Madison (also known as the United Center)


Here are some numbers to get you ready for the final game of the Western Conference Finals to see who will play the New York Rangers in the Finals


are 6-0 in elimination games this postseason so far, tied for the second most wins under those circumstances ever in a single postseason (the 1975 New York Islanders won 8 elimination games).


are 2-0 in elimination games this postseason, but are 5-0 in the last two seasons when their backs are against the wall.

The LA Kings are 7-1 in the last two postseasons in games in which they can be eliminated.

That one loss?  To the Blackhawks last season.

The LA Kings own Game 7s.  Current LA Kings players have played in a combined 77 Game 7s.  The Kings players are 70-7 in those Game 7s.   Gaborik, Williams, and Richards are each 6-0 in Game 7s in their career.  Carter is 4-0 and Quick is 3-0.  The team is 2-0 in Game 7s in this postseason.

The Blackhawks own Games 5-7 lately.  In the last two seasons, the Blackhawks are 13-0 in Games 5-7, 6-0 this postseason in those games.  This is the first Game 7 for the Blackhawks for this postseason.

The Kings are the third team to play all 21 possible games in the first three rounds.  The 93 Maple Leafs played all 21 games and lost to the Kings.  The 02 Avs played all 21 possible games and lost to the Red Wings.

Prior to this season, no team had ever faced two game sevens in the first two rounds and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.  Now, only the New York Rangers of this season have achieved this, and they did it by facing a Montreal team that lost its best player (Carey Price) in the first game of the series for the entire series.

The Kings struggle in the postseason in Chicago.  They are 1-8 in Chicago in the playoffs with the one win coming this season in game 2.  The Kings are 5-11 all time against the Blackhawks in the playoffs.  In the last two seasons, the Kings are 1-5 in Chicago in the playoffs and are 4-10 against the Hawks the last two playoffs against the Hawks.  The Hawks were also 3-0 against the Kings in the regular season this year.

The Blackhawks own their home ice this postseason (as they did last year).  This year, the Hawks are 8-1 at home in these playoffs.  They are 18-3 in the last two seasons at home in the playoffs.

Jonathan Quick comes up big in big games.  This season when facing elimination, Quick is 6-0 with a 1.33 GAA and a .957 save percentage.

Crawford is big when the lights are brightest as well.  He is 9-2 in his career when the Blackhawks are facing elimination.

When he has a chance to eliminate the other team, Crawford is otherworldly.  In those situations he is 6-1 with a 1.4 goals against and a .950 save percentage.

Crawford at home in the playoffs this season is 8-1 with a 1.89 GAA and a .936 save percentage.

Quick in Chicago in the playoffs in his career is 1-5 with a 3.16 GAA and a .888 save percentage.

Sure the Kings have been great so far this season facing elimination, but the Hawks don’t usually let the other team up when they have a chance to close out their opponent.  In the last six seasons, the Blackhawks are 12-1 with a chance to finish off the other team.

Obviously, as a Hawks fan, I believe Chicago will win, but the numbers seem to be in their favor as well.  However, the game isn’t played on paper, it’s played on the ice.  It should be great.

Go Hawks!

Would You Go All the Way for the USA?

As if the epic gravity of the fact that you were at the most highly attended hockey game of all time or the fact that you have probably never paid this much money for tickets to a sporting event weren’t enough, Winter Classic coordinators decided to deliver an added bonus for those brave enough to stay until the very end of the January 1st showdown between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. (If you guessed that Nick Fury inducts Pavel Datsyuk into the Avengers after the credits, you are incorrect. Romanoff never trusted the guy.)If you hadn’t already been carted away in an ambulance after suffering symptoms of severe hypothermia, you had the option to experience the supreme treat of hearing the exclusive live announcement of the 2014 US Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team.

I went to the Winter Classic with my buddy Tom Mitsos, a die-hard Detroit and Team USA fan, and had he been able to feel his toes he would have made me stay through to the end of the announcement. As it was, he’d forgotten what toes were like, what they were used for, and how it might feel to wiggle them. While sitting in Ann Arbor traffic for a matter of hours, I found the time to look up the Men’s Hockey Team using my phone’s browser. Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard was joined by Maple Leafs forwards Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk and a long list of current American hockey royalty. There was no shortage of talent on this team, but there was an unsurprising lack of my guys.

In order to unpack this phrase, “my guys,” we’ll have to flash back a few years to when I waited out the toughest three years of the recession living in North Texas – Denton and Fort Worth, to be specific – and in the process became a lifelong fan of local NHL team the Dallas Stars. While in Denton, my brother Micah and I would walk down Fry Street, which at the time was considered the best bar scene in the area, over even Dallas’s Deep Ellum area, and over to Riprocks (or “Rips,” as Micah called it) to watch the Stars battle their foe-of-the-week on a TV tuned to Fox Sports Southwest. My brother’s love of the team was intoxicating, and fairly virulent, but there was something about this team that was bigger than just sharing a deep love with my brother. I’d watch hockey games while nursing a Ziegenbock and chowing down on a burger and when I looked up at the screen it was as if the Stars were the only team broadcast in color. Even the Detroit Red Wings, the beloved team of my youth and of my home town, only played in grey-scale. The other teams were Kansas and the Stars were Oz. I’d only had that feeling two other sports teams in my life, and both for only a year: the first was with the Dallas Cowboys during Terrell Owens’ last year with the team, and the second was the year the Detroit Lions looked like they might go undefeated, before most of the team had been arrested for drug crimes or otherwise. As of the 2013-14 hockey season, if my calculations are correct, I’ve been a Dallas Stars fan for a full seven years.

After looking over a Team USA roster devoid of Dallas Stars, I started to peruse the line-ups for some of the other contenders for Gold in the Olympics Men’s Hockey tourney. Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen had joined Boston’s Tuukka Rask and San Jose’s Antti Niemi as goalies for Team Finland, up-and-comer Valeri Nichushkin was playing for Team Russia, and captain Jamie Benn joined head coach Lindy Ruff on the roster of a star-heavy Canadian Olympic Team. Just prior to the Olympic break, I remember staying home sick from work, the only thing keeping me both warm and comfortable enough to sleep through my illness being the outdated Brenden Morrow Stars jersey Amy had bought me along with Valentine’s Day tickets to a Detroit-Dallas game at the Joe Louis as Christmas presents a previous year, and posting a selfie on Facebook just prior to a Stars game reading, “Go Stars! Go Canada! Go Finland! Go Russia!”

Exhibit A. Full, original Facebook caption: "Home, sick, but staying warm Micah-style. Go Stars! Go Canada! Go Finland! Go Russia!"

Exhibit A. Full, original Facebook caption: “Home, sick, but staying warm Micah-style. Go Stars! Go Canada! Go Finland! Go Russia!”

I hadn’t followed Olympic hockey in previous years – it was always over before I realized it had even started – but I had always assumed, in the current world climate, that the way I’d chosen which Olympic hockey teams I would support was the same way everyone chose which team they’d root for. For example, fans of Henrik Zetterberg would be fans of Team Sweden and fans of Pavel Datsyuk would cheer for Team Russia. This was not the case. In the days to come, I was bombarded by people horribly offended by my Facebook status simply because I was not rooting for Team USA to win the gold medal for ice hockey at the 2014 Olympics.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of these people had good arguments. There were those who said that I am merely a “contrarian,” choosing opposing teams simply to act as a devil’s advocate, and to some extent they are right. I have a lot of trouble joining in the actions of a mob, and one of my greatest fears is the tyranny of the majority. I was also called a “troller,” which is equally accurate. I do like to put things out there so we’re not silent about possible sources of oppression. I even have a friend who is known to refer to me as an “iconoclast,” but in a post-Nixon world of pedophile priests and human rights sacrificed for the sake of fleeting public security, what remains unspoiled to be placed atop a pedestal? The annoying part of the dialogue that followed my post was not being called these names that I clearly have little problem with being called. The annoying part was when people would act like there was a moral imperative to root for Team USA, like my choice to support any other team was simultaneously killing Tinkerbell along with all of America’s deployed armed forces and the American public as a whole. When George W. Bush was deposed of, I thought I’d see an end to McCarthyist accusations wherein ones opponent is labeled a terrorist, but that thought went up in smoke when I ended up on the wrong side of sports.

And this is the point where my good friend and fellow Winter Classic attendant Tom comes into the conversation, at exactly the wrong time. As one might expect, things got explosive. Before you all start lecturing me on the value of tact, I want to let you know that tact is overvalued in our society. It is not tact, exactly, that is the problem, but the thing that people parade around as tact. People prefer to be dishonest, to avoid conflict, and to be generally spineless, a series of vices that they define as a virtue, and as a result we see rumor-mongering and passive aggressive cold wars popping up left and right. Tact is downright useless in today’s moral climate. What it ought to be replaced with is understanding that effective communication requires a particular type of argument coupled with a particular type of delivery, both of which vary according to the circumstance. What follows is a good argument that I managed to attach to a terrible delivery, and the explosive consequences that I mentioned earlier.


While these are not the words that I exchanged with the my various angry interlocutors, they are the foundations of my perspective on the subject. If you’re looking for my response to my good buddy Tom, you can feel free to skip this section and jump ahead to “The Delivery.”

One of the current trends, alongside gluten free and non-GMO, is the buy local movement, but there was once a world where you had little choice but to buy locally. If you couldn’t grow or make a product at your own homestead or with the help of your kith and kin, you would bring your excesses to market and trade them to other people. This myth is both true and false. For many people, all of life took place within a thirty mile radius from birth to death, and yet even some of the earliest civilizations – the pre-Greek Minoans and Myceneans – were known for vast shipping networks, with suggestions of boat routes from Ancient Greece and Turkey all the way to Great Britain. For most, if not all, of recorded history, humankind has been cosmopolitan by nature.

We are more cosmopolitan now than at any other time. While for most people cosmopolitan means a drink or a magazine, it generally means that you are at ease in one country as much as in any other country. It derives from the Greek “cosmos,” or world, and “polis,” or citizen, suggesting that a cosmopolitan is a citizen not of any particular sovereignty, but of the world. There are some who are going to argue, “I am not cosmopolitan. I’ve only ever lived in America. I’ve never even traveled overseas. I did go to Tijuana on Spring Break once, but that doesn’t count.” I challenge these people to look at the nationality of the people who read their blogs, of those who post your favorite YouTube videos, or to simply check the tags on their clothing for their country of origin.

Some might argue that the Olympics was created not to fan the fire of petty local vices and feuds with ones neighbor, but in order to create a greater citizenship, a kindred spirit with people of different regions that might prevent future warring and trade disputes. Whether or not that is the case, I have a lot of difficulty finding any sporting event where you will find something purely American going up against something purely Chinese or purely Latvian. The main threats in the Olympics Hockey tournament were, as always, USA, Canada, Russia, Sweden, and Finland, and we have expected this to be so for some time simply due to the fact that these teams are loaded with highly skilled NHL players while many of the other teams are not. Now, players for these teams don’t simply stick to their home country and wait for the Olympics to come back again. These NHL players spend nearly all of their time practicing, playing, and making money for teams that are located only in North America, US teams like Philadelphia and Washington as well as Canadian teams like Montreal and Toronto. The majority of the players for the Dallas Stars may be Canadian by birth, but they are paid by an American team and in turn make money for the same American team, have houses or apartments in America, buy food and drinks from American drinkers, and bring their cars to American auto repair businesses when they break down.

The time when the purely American team or individual could be found has long been over, and that is assuming it ever existed in the first place. The original European settlers had nothing in common, no unifying language or national origin, and the American identity was defined in the negative, as not-British, not-French, not-Dutch, and they had even less in common with America’s original human settlers, the so-called Natives who traveled across land bridges from Eurasia long before any settlers accidentally stumbled upon the continent. Everyone is tainted, by this country or that country, through coaching, sponsorship, family, friends, financial support, media support, merchandising, or ancestry, and this is exactly as it should be. As a result, our thinking about who we want to support in any sport is rich and complex, allowing us to express our freedom to choose not only through popular vote for US public office but also by rooting for another nation’s Olympic team for reasons as simple as liking their story.

This is the argument that my beliefs on the topic stemmed from…


…and this is how I delivered those beliefs.

When Tom came at me with a “home team trumps everybody else” [Tom, a text] argument, I hit him back with three incredibly long texts explaining a series of questions that complicates the idea of “home team,” asking whether a goal by Tomas Tatar (Detroit Red Wings) or a win for Team USA is better for Michigan, and suggesting that the American revolution was fought so people wouldn’t have to be “guilted into liking the most popular [team]” [me, a text].

Shortly thereafter, I started a guerilla attack on Tom via Twitter. Tom wrote an innocuous statement that perfectly fit his post as a sports writer and Detroit Red Wings blogger / podcaster, a Valentine’s Day tweet reading, “Today is the worst, not because it’s Valentine’s Day, but because Zetterberg pulled out of the Olympics” [Tom, Twitter]. I implied that because of Tom’s position regarding Team USA, he must want Zetterberg to die because his efforts are not for the glory of Team USA and also that Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, Max Pacioretty, James van Riemsdyk, and Blake Wheeler should “be hung for traitors” [me, Twitter] because they play for un-American teams in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg during the regular season.

One week later, when Team Canada won the gold medal qualifying game with Dallas Star Jamie Benn scoring the game-winning-goal, the entire thing came to a head. We exchanged angry texts for the entirety of the morning, and it only stopped because my fiancee said that I was being a dick and should apologize to Tom. What happened next was unexpected, and did a lot to change my perspective about petty arguments. We’ll get into that soon, but first a flashback.

Several years ago, I was living in New York City. I spent a lot of my free time on AIM – little did I know, but it would be my last year using the program – listening to my brother talk about this great hockey team called the Dallas Stars and explaining their virtues and victories, and yet this was before I was even a Stars fan myself. I was in a band called Get Stop Ticket with my three friends Becky, Elliot, and Fiona, who had also relocated from Grand Rapids to NYC. We never played any gigs, but we certainly made the rounds of the Brooklyn and Manhattan (and sometimes even Queens) night life. One weekend, another Michigan compatriot and fellow musician, a DJ named Jon came to visit us. We attended a concert at Studio B – I think it may have been the electronic band Modeselektor, and if that is the case then my brother was there in attendance as well for this story – and I remember Jon checking in every couple moments to tell me something about the music or to crack some joke. I remember feeling really annoyed that the experience was peppered with this side-commentary and creating this unfair perspective of Jon as a pest that evening. Later, however, we went to a bar, and Jon started to unload some things about his past that I didn’t really know. We had gone to the same high school and I’d always seen Jon as much more popular than me and having a wealthier family, but I had never bothered to wonder what was going on in his life. That evening at the bar I began to feel for Jon more than ever before and to this date I believe that we are kindred spirits in ways few others are. I respect Jon and value him as a human being and a friend. The lesson I learned that night was like that of the classic parables of ancient history.

It was a lesson that I hadn’t learned well enough to treat Tom with the dignity that he deserved during our Olympic-sized battle. As soon as I backed down from the offensive, Tom felt safe enough to admit that his father had been in the hospital and he was terrified that things might go poorly for him. It’s not my place to tell Tom’s story for him, but it is my place to point out that this was an instance of the same lesson. I spent so much time attempting to meet the teams and players involved in Olympic Men’s Hockey where they are, loving them despite national affiliation, that I had forgotten to meet Tom where he was. Tom was in a scary place and he needed a friend, and what I brought to the table was yet another enemy.

Eventually Tom and I got on the same page, and I think we’ve put this dispute in the past. We’re both firm in our beliefs and I think we respect one another. To Tom’s credit, he was quick to share the blame for the series of events that had us at one another’s throat. In the end, we were two people who held different opinions, both with completely understandable and positive reasons for holding those different opinions (The Argument), and yet we clashed like Titans because of how we decided to let those opinions play out in public discourse (The Delivery).

Children are concerned with fairness, but only insofar as they gain from it. As a child I believed it unfair that my brother got presents on my birthday (Christmas) but that I didn’t get presents on his, so my parents would get me a present on February 4th. People on Facebook speak up for justice, but only insofar as their own cause is served. Tom and I, along with all of the others embroiled in the Olympic controversy I’ve written about, valued the concept of respect, but not in its fullness. We wanted people to respect our own opinions, either before or at the expense of offering the same respect to their opinions. Respect was at best a compromise and at worse a battle won or lost. If I had been able to see past the delivery and even past the argument and noticed the human being behind it all, a lesson I had claimed to learn after the incident with Jon, I would have seen another person who suffers through the difficulties of life just as I do. I would love that person for exactly the right reasons and I would have nothing but respect.

I’ve learned this lesson before, but I haven’t figured out how to live this lesson. Some would say this is the ultimate message that the people of the book (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) profess in unison, the same set of words uttered in different tongues by Confucius and to some extent – to lay individuals – by Lao Tzu and Buddha. As for me, I know that I am often presented a chance to prove that I have become the embodiment of this concept of respect, and that I can think of two times when I have failed. My fear is that I won’t get that many more chances.

(Oh, and by the way, Tom’s dad made it through that difficult time, and we were all pretty darn happy about it. We love you, Mr. Mitsos!)

‘How Do You Know Until You Try?’ Life Lessons Hockey Taught Me

It’s no secret sports can teach you some big life lessons. From leadership to working as a team, coaches from the high school level to the professional ranks use sports to teach athletes about basic fundamentals of life.

One of my biggest life lessons came from my dad when I first started playing hockey. It wasn’t my dad who got me into hockey — he wasn’t even a fan when I first started playing — but it was a friend of my dad’s who had three boys whom all played hockey.

I remember the first time I watched my dad’s friend’s kids play hockey for the first time. I was hooked. I don’t know what it was about the sport, maybe the thrill of scoring a goal and everyone cheering for something you did, or maybe it was because I tried every other popular sport and none of them clicked with me like hockey did.

I did tee ball, baseball, basketball, soccer and they were all fun to play, but I got bored with them or had no desire to get any better.

Then I found hockey. Hockey is a very expensive sport. Not only do you need to buy all of the equipment just to play, but you need to pay for lessons to learn how to skate. Then once you do that, you have to pay fees to be on a team, which include ice time for practices and games. Then you need to pay gas money to play in different cities. I was never on a travel team, but my house teams would still travel to Holland, Muskegon, Traverse City and other places across the state to play other house teams.

This is me as a Pee Wee at 12 years old.

This is me as a Pee Wee at 12 years old.

One of the biggest challenges I faced whilst learning how to skate was learning how to stop. Because I was afraid of falling down and being made fun of by my peers, my three strategies for stopping myself were to crash into the boards, slide into a slow stop or turn sharply. None of these strategies are ideal for a game-type situation, but who wants to be made fun of for constantly falling down? I was getting into the game late as it was — most kids start skating when they are around 3 years old, I didn’t start until I was 7 — and I needed to catch up to the other kids without being the laughingstock of the team.

I remember telling my dad “I can’t stop, I’m never going to be able to do it.” For whatever reason, I thought being able to stop was something you were able to do or you weren’t. There was no ability to learn it — you either had it, or you didn’t.

My dad’s response to this was one of the greatest life lessons I still value today: “How do you know until you try?” Of course, like every kid that age, I brushed it off thinking I knew better than my parents, and mostly because knowing that isn’t going to make it any easier when my teammates are laughing at me because I can’t do a simple thing like stop. I continued to struggle with stopping, while all of my peers could stop on a dime.

It was frustrating. But I slowly started to realize that not everything is going to come naturally to me. The only way I could improve my game was to continue to work on my weaknesses. I practiced and practiced, and I don’t remember specifically falling a lot, but I’m sure I did. And I’m sure a few guys snickered at me, but everyone had weaknesses.

The first time I stopped without falling was a monumental achievement. I remember the snow spraying up on the boards as my skate blade dug into the ice surface. I stopped, and I didn’t need the boards or friction to slow me down.

Of course, my dad was the first one to say “See, you don’t know until you try.” He was right. How would I ever know I couldn’t do something unless I tried it? Simply saying I can’t without trying is already admitting defeat.

This lesson has served me in other areas of my life, most notably, in my relationships.

Last year, I met a girl at a party who I became instantly attracted to (side note: That usually isn’t hard for me, but this girl was captivating). She was way out of my league, and I figured she probably wasn’t interested in me, anyway. With a face and body like that, she could get any guy she wanted.

But then the words of my dad echoed in my head: “How do you know until you try?” He’s right. Maybe she doesn’t like pretty boys, maybe she’s not into jocks. Maybe she goes for quasi-nerdy, awkward guys like me. How will I know unless I try?

So I gulped down some liquid courage and started talking to her. We probably talked for a good two to three hours at the party. Even when I left her to go talk to my friends, she continued to follow me around all night. I never had a girl follow me anywhere — I was always the one doing the following.

We hung out a few times and stopped talking to each other after about a month (translation: I started getting feelings, and she probably recognized that so she bailed), but I don’t regret spending time with her at all. Sure, there were a lot of red flags from the start, and I could have avoided some heart break by never speaking to her again after the party, but I had a good time with her and it gave me confidence knowing that not all girls are unattainable, even if their looks dictate otherwise.

It’s also served me well in applying for jobs, discussing work issues with my bosses and just about every other facet of life. Assuming doesn’t get you anywhere in life. And you know what they say about people who assume, you make an “ass” out of “u” and “me.”

Yeah, I ended my post with a lame saying. Deal with it.