Category Archives: the Lord’s own hockey

This is magic

Come for the Cardinals baseball… stay for the Lord’s Own Hockey.

(language alert!)

Continue reading

The Code

A wonderful discussion over at Sarah Hoyt’s place got even better when the duplicitous weasel in question returned… and promptly demonstrated exactly what Sarah was complaining about.

The example of “Marquess of Queensbury” that I’m most familiar with goes by the unofficial name of The Code, and it describes an ideal for how people deal with each other on a hockey rink. Arm a dozen guys with clubs, strap razors to their feet, and toss them into an enclosed space, and it becomes a very practical matter to regulate their behavior – and rulebooks can’t do this alone. You have to have a system of social pressure passed down from veteran to rookie, teaching them “the right way to play” and “respecting the game” and all the other phrases that sound like cliché, but describe real concepts that are the only things making the game itself possible.

Despite some disagreements, there are things about the Code everyone understands – and the biggest thing is that if you disregard the Code you don’t deserve to be protected by the Code. Guys who square up and fight have a respect for each other that is never accorded to a guy who hits from behind, who fouls on purpose and away from the play, and then refuses to answer for himself.

To apply it to boxing – though I am not a fan either, I get why the sport (and similar, such as MMA) exists despite periodic attempts to outlaw it. It is an elemental test of mettle, courage, and strength. As such, it has a compelling quality. Those who do it have to have a core respect for their fellows. One of Ms. Hoyt’s commenters embedded the fight scene from The Quiet Man, so you can click that and watch a living, breathing example.

The “rules” exist in that context in the same way the rules and the Code do in hockey – to keep it a contest of will, skill, and technique. In a sport where one may legitimately damage one’s opponent during the normal course of play (it is indeed the entire point of a prizefight), it becomes even more important to have strong restrictions about low blows and such. I have seen a clip of an MMA fighter, for example, tapping out to save his opponent, who was essentially out on his feet but still trying to continue.

It was a magnificent gesture that only works because a referee then stops the fight and holds up one fighter’s hand in victory; then they hug and part as respected foes. In an alley fight it would be fatal. That brings us back around to the rules, right? They’re silly in a life-or-death fight, but without things like them, every fight must be to the death, or else to the boredom of the strongest fighter there is.

This is a big reason why the Geneva Conventions are binding only when all parties are signatories, and only when all abide by them. There may be very good moral and practical reasons to afford some of those protections in situations where they don’t apply – for example, the humane treatment of those who have been captured or who have surrendered – but on a battlefield doing it will get you killed. And too many times, those who merely disagree about politics or culture have turned that disagreement into a battlefield… and not in the figurative sense, either. Real people have really died when one subgroup has decided to stop regarding them as people at all. And this country and this culture, in this time, doesn’t get a pass. Real people really die here, too. The ones who merely have their reputations and businesses ruined are in that sense fortunate.

Our would-be elites are, of course, well aware of this, but they are at heart fantasists, and their primary fantasy is, “We will be the ones who ultimately decide what is done to anyone we choose whenever we like.” They never dream that someday they may find themselves the ones to whom other people choose to do whatever, whenever.

They know full well that behaving this way as an equal opponent will ring down the curtain on them, so they don’t actually do that – they invest their time, not in playing skill, but in become rulebook experts, exploiting this knowledge to corrupt the game itself. In effect, they seek to replace the referees, to be the ones with the power to enforce the rules, to control all outcomes and by so doing “win” every single time. That’s why they go in for the high-profile, high-influence spots: they all go into government, the media (either news or entertainment), education – seeking power itself and the means to acquire more. On a smaller level, it’s why all the really dirty players in my league are always the ones who squeal loudest about “calling it both ways” and “what about what HE just did?” It’s one of their most potent weapons. They know we care about such things, and exploit it so that we’ll let them off the hook. They will even lie and say that opposition to their cheating is opposition to rulebooks – as if they were engaged in making the world a fairer place and we’re the ones with the problem.

That’s the sign that playing against them as if they were still just one of the teams will be a losing strategy. They need to be removed, entirely, just to be able to have a game in the first place. They don’t actually care about the rule of law, much less the larger Code that any rulebook is a mere facet of. When they howl their protests, they are lying, trying to make us tap out so they can shiv us.

Once they’ve gone that crooked, we’re in a tough spot. Recall that it was Cromwell who eventually flattened the law in the case above, and as the movie itself reveals at the end, he wound up quite blown over by the winds he’d loosed upon England. How ought we to behave in such a situation? We’re not talking about theory, either – Thomas More was a real man who lost his actual head; there is no guarantee that such persecutions will not visit our shores the way they have been visited upon so many of our martyred brethren across the world in these times; and it may not just be the faithful, either, who are getting sent to camps and put to the sword. A world like that must be fought against, those who mean to build it must be stopped.

In Scripture, one of the hardest teachings is in Matthew 5:38-48. The Church has always held that this is meant to curb our appetite for revenge. Christ does not forbid us to protect our lives and our liberty. And if nobody ever stood against evil it would trample the world.

Just as certainly, if charity is never extended to those who may exploit it, true charity is impossible. The grace of God doesn’t work that way, and everyone is richer for the Father’s extravagance in this regard. In the admittedly-terrible movie, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, for example, there’s a spot where Henry Hyde saves the day, and Dr. Jeckel, in response to thanks, says, “Let’s not make a saint out of a sinner.” But this is foolish – there is no other material out of which to make them. If faith didn’t baptize, there’d be no faith. And likewise, if civilization didn’t seek to make civilized people out of enemies, civilization would perish… which is why we can never wholly fight on their terms. We have the ultimate goal of saving our enemies. Dropping the civilized rules of ritual combats is not the same as simply becoming like the beasts of the field and savaging each other, because then the fight becomes unwinnable. There will be nobody left to enjoy the fruits of civilization if no civilized people remain.

And people call being the good guy “easy”!


Who gets to choose, anyway?

I play on a hockey team called the Killer Rabbits. No swooning, please – we’re old people so we play on foot with a ball (dek hockey), and we’re not all that great even on this humble level. But we have fun, and that’s why we do it.

As a result, we have certain teams we enjoy playing who are in it for the fun as well. Sure we like to win, but if not, we still shake hands with those guys and part as friends who share a common love. If we’re not playing against each other we’re usually talking shop about the game. But there are others that take it way too seriously. Hockey isn’t the point anymore, it’s winning at something, or (for a few whose games it is my unpleasant duty to referee*) the freedom to clobber people with sticks without legal consequence. And frequently, it’s those who have lost the good who are the most obsessed with the rulebook – not because they want to actually follow anything therein, but merely as a tool to start pointless debates with us referees, trying to justify their mayhem or blame us for errors, real and imagined.

* I ref the games of teams in the other divisions. Again, let me stress that this is a really low-level rec league, and the normal considerations of conflict of interest don’t apply. Someone’s gotta do it or there’s no league, and besides, in 20 years I’ve played on nearly every long-established team at one time or another, even if just filling in as a goalie. (Nobody carries a backup so if your guy’s hurt, it’s quite common to grab someone coming off the rink or waiting to go on.) The bottom line is: if you’re carrying a grudge against a dek hockey team based on your own games, and can’t ref them fairly as a result, then your temperament is not really suited for the job.

Which gets me to the would-be gatekeepers of true sci-fi fandom. I observe that when these stooges say that others aren’t real fans and therefore are disqualified, they’re lying on two levels: first, about the actual facts (who is a fan, what makes a fan); second, about their motives. They don’t care about who’s really a fan because they don’t care about the genre. They care only about being a gatekeeper, about the power to confer some coveted status that they’ve invented for the occasion. Love of the thing has been lost entirely; a true love would rejoice to find more people to truly share it, but they want to restrict and hoard. They can’t possibly compete with a true love, so they disqualify the lovers on some spurious grounds: not socially-conscious, too cis-whateverist, not really a fan.

And they do it because it so often works. Those who love a real thing dislike having to waste all their time justifying it, or protecting it (and themselves) from such Busybody Bossypants. It’s not worth the trouble to constantly argue about nonsense to get to the fun. The BBs don’t care because the argument is the big thing for them – especially winning it. That’ll show them!

Like the miscreants I send to the box, they lie; like them, they have no point; and like them, the gatekeepers dream that they are in fact referees and not fellow players. They don’t even care enough about the game to learn to play it, much less win, so they try to change the rules – that’s the skillset they’ve mastered and they use it. But soon they inevitably reach the point where nobody will play their game with them any more and they will be alone with the thing they truly love – their superiority – while we are rewarded with what we truly love. For where our treasure lies, there our heart is as well. All get what they desire; not all will enjoy the bargain.

What they never realize until too late is that such groups always tear themselves apart. It’s simple to see why: if all one loves superiority, then one will always wish to be the supreme superior boffin of whatever fiefdom one has invaded: all else are rivals. Excuses will be found to restrict the rewards to an ever-narrower inner circle, and to turn the punishments on an ever-wider general public. The innocent jokes told to friends today will be People’s Glorious Exhibit A in your show trial tomorrow.

The machine must run.

My 15 seconds of fame

So after last night’s Islanders win, I was rattling around on the Twitter, half-noticing the postgame show…

Yup, that was me. Shannon Hogan and Butch Goring briefly poked fun at the idea, and then it was gone.

Over at the Lighthouse Hockey online digs, such japes are par for the course. We kid! We kid, because we love! So I hope that Cal won’t mind it too much. Besides, yours truly wouldn’t rate an emergency call-up with this weak ‘stache game.

Hey guys, good game.  How about a Dr Pepper?

Hey guys, good game. How about a Dr Pepper?

Also, I’m fairly certain the Islanders clubhouse doesn’t have an unmade bed and a reading light.

Hockey Synchronicity

Tonight, the Dallas Stars retired the jersey number of the great Mike Modano.

To commemorate this, NHL Network played the game on March 17, 2007, when Modano became the NHL’s all-time leading scorer among US-born players; he scored twice to catch and then pass Joey Mullen for the career mark.

Lost in that was the captain of Dallas’ opponent, Kimmo Timonen, who scored twice to lead the Predators to the victory.

After this replay, the NHL Network went to the retirement ceremony, and then to the Toronto Maple Leafs – Philadelphia Flyers.  In this game, the Flyers’ Kimmo Timonen scored twice.

I find things like that to be quite fun.

Hold me thrill me kiss me trade me

New York Islanders fans are in something of a dither¹ with the news that GM Garth Snow has given up on talented prospect Nino Niederreiter, dumping him to the Minnesota Wild for a third-round pick and forward Cal Clutterbuck.

(¹ I concede that “something of a dither” is the normal state of Islanders fandom, but this stirred the simmering pot to a boil when it was announced on draft day.)

Clutterbuck is not untalented – he has double-digit goals in his four full seasons before dipping to just four in the lockout-shortened season just concluded. He’s a valued penalty killer, which isn’t always easy to find.  Finally, he is just turning 26 in November, so he can be expected to contribute at a peak level for a few more years.  However, that peak level is pretty much exactly what everyone sees now.  Niederreiter may put it all together in his new surroundings and pot 30 goals a year for ten years.

That isn’t Clutterbuck’s game. He is known far more for rattling bodychecks and being an annoying SOB to opposing scoring threats.  This is a useful sort of player, especially when partnered with some offensive touch, but the Isles and their fans certainly hoped for far more when the team chose Niederreiter with the fifth overall pick three years ago.  Nino struggled badly in his first go-round in the NHL (1 goal in 55 games, albeit as a 19-year-old), and opened the lockout season with the Isles’ top farm affiliate in Bridgeport.

While in Bridgeport he lit up the AHL, but when NHL camps finally started the Isles chose to leave him in the minors, perhaps thinking it was better for his development and confidence.  It backfired – his agent began making “trade my client” noises and Nino’s play tailed off until the recent World Championships, when he helped lead the Swiss team all the way to the medal rounds and their best finish in over half a century. Even during all that, despite Snow’s best efforts (and the man is a master at CommSec), little rumbles came out here and there, usually from Nino’s camp via overseas media: the Isles, it was said, didn’t congratulate him on his success at the Worlds. No, Garth Snow hasn’t talked to him recently. (Usually guys like Eric Cairns or Ken Morrow do that with the prospects.) The trade was a confirmation of some fans’ worst fears: things behind the scenes had probably been deteriorating beyond repair, capped by rumors that the Isles had tried to obtain a sorely-needed goalie and had been rebuffed by both Los Angeles and Vancouver when Nino was part of the return.

Good, bad, or ugly, the trade may have represented the best the Isles could do… and in fact, it looks like the best Minnesota could hope for as well, because they anticipated that Clutterbuck would not fit into their budget when his next contract was due… a concern the Islanders don’t have with all their cap room.

Isles fans may have a different problem.  See if you can spot it:

Continue reading

Rally Gnome


Let’s go Islanders!

UPDATE, 10:29 pm:

That hurts, but thanks for a great year, guys.

Especially Tavares. MVP! MVP!

Especially Tavares. MVP! MVP!

This lives in my house now

He looks really hopeful to be finally let out, doesn't he

Fresh from his travels all around the European leagues

I snapped this picture at a local store, and put the poor fellow back on the shelf.  My wife came along behind, said to herself, “It’s only four bucks,” and bought it.  Then she surprised me with it the night before the lockout ended.

I call him Mottau.


UPDATE, 5/11 – Thanks for the visits.  Sadly, comments on this post are bollixed.  I can only add them via my dashboard.  Who the hell knows why, maybe Botta has hackers on payroll or something.*  Please click here if you’ve got something to say – I actually AM interested!

* No, of course he doesn’t.

Twitter is a reality unto itself.

Dip into anyone’s follow list, and you’re likely to see a decent variety of folks.  To take a for-instance, my follow list holds a few political bloggers, a few humorists, more than a few hockey writers, and many of my blogfriends.

Does this mean that I have a wide cross-section of cultural, political, and social thought in the timeline?  That’s a entirely different kind of question, altogether.

With only sixty people on my follow list, I’m not going to get too much depth and breadth of human thought on any topic.  But I don’t think it’s necessarily limited, inasmuch as I follow people for all sorts of different reasons.  When the hockey folk retweet, for example, I’m likely to get links to all sorts of things I disagree with.  Well, I read them, and think about them.  Other people more inclined to advocacy of any kind sometimes tweet things they disagree with themselves, or a link to their own rebuttal (leading one to check what the original said).  And half my follows couldn’t give a rat’s rumpus about hockey or whatnot.

In the end, I think I get a reasonable variety; no more or less than if I hung out all day at Starbucks.  (But if I was on Twitter that whole time… hmmmmmmm…….)

This calculus changes when you get to those who follow you, however, and that’s the topic of this post.

Continue reading

Any time is a good time for π

But especially March 14th, National Pi Day.*

*In Europe, the convention is day-month-year, so this would be 14/03/12, and there would be no pi, since they have the same twelve months we do and thus no 3/14 anywhere in sight.  They would have to settle for the highly-inaccurate July 22nd, aka “22/7”, which was sometimes used as a quick-and-dirty estimate in the dark days with no calculators permitted on math tests.  And in England, that would be called “maths” because “mathematics,” being a plural, ought to have a plural abbreviation.  But in any country, this is all a pointless digression.

It was a thing over at High Heat Stats to find all the pitchers with π as an earned-run average, a task taken to heart by the redoubtable Joe Posnanski.  He found out some great stuff, too.

Those of us on the hockey side of things have an equivalent in GAA, goals-against average for goalies.  There is, however, one problem – for much of the league’s history, a 3.14 GAA is just not so hot.  As a result, there aren’t that many examples to choose from.*  Nobody gets to be that mediocre for that long to keep a 3.14 GAA. In baseball, 3.14 has ranged from respectable to quite good, and only very rarely has been considered openly bad; there are plenty of guys to chose from.

*Out of the 160 goalies to play 250 or more games in their career, fully 105 have a GAA lower than 3.14.  And one man, Richard Brodeur, met the 250 game standard in both the WHA and NHL.  As you can guess, his career ran exactly in the absolute roughest historical time for goalies, 1972-1988.  His combined GAA for both leagues, 3.76, is 153rd of the 160 – and he finished his career over .500 (296-289-74).


On top of that, baseball has an offensive equivalent to π – batting .314 – that does not exist for hockey.  (Though I suppose a team scoring 314 goals in a season would count.)  It’s just much easier to find pi-friendly baseballers than pi-friendly hockey players.  But that also means that it’s easier to give you the few examples after the jump.

Continue reading