November 15, 2013

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Admiring the Competitive Balance of the NHL

By: Matt Bowen

Nearly 20 games into the 2013-14 NHL season and the competitive balance is evident. The future of the league is mighty bright. Even after a strike that nearly erased last season, the NHL is thriving at the moment.

The league’s decision to change the divisional structure proved to be a stroke of genius. Now, there are four divisions containing eight teams each in the Eastern Conference and seven in the Western. The league is logistically sound now—this year the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets moved east while the Winnipeg Jets headed west. Suddenly, the NHL makes sense in respect to placement of teams.

Chicago Blackhawks

Can the Blackhawks keep the Central Division lead away from the Colorado Avalanche?

Albeit early, the standings are a bit surprising at the moment. The Tampa Bay Lightning currently leads the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division at the moment with 28 points. Yes, star Steven Stamkos is out with a broken right leg for some time, but his team is flush with young talent and veteran leaders like Martin St. Louis. Seeing Stamkos go down was a punch to the gut to devout hockey fans.  The kid is miraculous on the ice, have faith that when he returns he’ll be better than ever. He’s only 23 years old and a superstar—like the Terminator, he’ll be back. The Lightning surely didn’t let his absence affect their mood as they won the first game without him on November 12, 2-1 over the Montreal Canadiens. That’s good to see that resilience.

The Lightning can’t let up now, nipping at their heels are perennial power houses in the Boston Bruins, Detroit and an up-and-coming Toronto Maple Leafs team that just won’t quit.

Another surprise are the Colorado Avalanche, who led by 22-year-old Matt Duchene are second in the Western Conference’s Central Division with 28 points. This is somewhat hard to believe, but new head coach and Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy clearly knows how to get the best out of his bunch. Top to bottom, this is the best division in hockey right now with the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators. This race will go down to the wire come playoff time.

The Central Division may have the most balance, but the Western Conference’s Pacific Division is the league’s strongest. This one will be a dogfight every time teams take to the ice. The Anaheim Ducks are currently the best team in the league with 31 points, but there’s little breathing room. The Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings all have 10-plus wins at the moment. Yes, they’re all going to beat up on each other throughout the season, but they currently have five playoff teams right now.

So, who’s the best team in the league? Right now it’s anyone’s guess and that’s why it’s great.

Don’t forget about the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan division. The Penguins still have a guy named Sidney Crosby while it’s still good to be Ovi in Washington. Crosby is currently tied for the lead with 23 points while Ovechkin is atop the goal list with 14.

The bottom line is that the NHL got it right this time. Everyone should have a smile on their face. The league is as competitive as ever and here to stay. Embrace it, enjoy it, and fall in love with it.

October 7, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Patriots and Seahawks fall from ranks of unbeatens: Denver, Kansas City, and New Orleans all won their games this weekend to reach the 5-0 plateau in the NFL, but the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks weren’t quite as fortunate. The Pats’ loss to Cincinnati wasn’t too surprising as the team had been involved in numerous close games, winning three of their four contests by a touchdown or less. Even at 4-1, it’s hard to get a handle on just how good New England is this season. Meanwhile, Seattle won’t be running the table either, after a 34-28 loss to Indianapolis as the Colts scored 11 unanswered points in the final quarter.

The New Orleans Saints are one of three NFL teams that are still undefeated.

Pirates and Rays win Wild Card games: The Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays extended their seasons with Wild Card wins in the opening games of Major League Baseball’s playoffs last week. Pittsburgh defeated Cincinnati and took a 2-1 lead in their best of five series with the St. Louis Cardinals into Monday. The Rays could be packing up soon, though, after falling behind 2-0 in their series with the Boston Red Sox.

Grand Theft Auto … in real life: An Auburn lacrosse player thought Grand Theft Auto in real life was too good to pass up.

NHL season underway: The NHL regular season kicked off this past week with a trio of games on Tuesday. Highlighting the schedule was the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks winning their opener against the Washington Capitals. The Caps got a hat trick from Mikhail Grabovski in his debut with the team, but it wasn’t enough as Chicago won 6-4 in dramatic fashion, scoring the game’s last three goals in the final period.

Dusty Baker fired as Reds coach: Managers that make the playoffs in three out of four major league seasons aren’t often fired. Such was the case, though, in Cincinnati where the Reds let go of their head man, Dusty Baker. Baker averaged 85 wins a year in his six seasons with the club but despite that and the postseason appearances, that wasn’t enough to keep his job. The big knock on the manager is that he wasn’t able to lead the Reds deep in the playoffs, losing in the first round in each of those seasons. You never can tell how things like this will work out, but canning a manager with that much success is difficult to justify – despite the early exits. The only way the move pays off is with a World Series appearance and with the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves hanging around in the National League, and the surging Pirates making waves in the division, that’s hardly a guarantee.

Larry Krystkowiak takes a bite out of crime: So, um, the Utah Utes’ coach and former NBA player has decided to turn into a policeman or something.

Dwight Howard-Kareem apparently not BFFs: File this in the ‘In Case You Missed It’ file, but if you’ve not yet seen it, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Dwight Howard are in a bit of a mini-feud. Abdul-Jabbar fired the first shot by insinuating that Howard wasn’t a smart player and Howard, understandably, shot back, claiming dumb players don’t win Defensive Player of the Year awards. While Howard is certainly one of the league’s best centers and has more than a fair point, he’s always going to get a bad rap in L.A. for his disastrous year with the Lakers. His addition was supposed to put the Lakers over the top, but instead the team regressed with him around.

Mascot fail: Someone apparently needs to explain the NFL’s field goal rules to the Miami Dolphins mascot. Instead of hitting a game-tying field goal, the Fins’ Caleb Sturgis missed the kick against the Ravens in their 26-23 loss. Only problem is that someone forgot to tell the mascot who celebrated a little early. Whoops. Oh well, I guess it’s better than legitimately beating up a little kid like the Colts’ mascot did this week.

October 4, 2013

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In Case You Missed It – September

By: Joe Williams

It’s been a full month of college and NFL football and baseball’s regular season finished with an exciting extra game to determine the final playoff spot. Many of us are spending more time in football pools and on our fantasy teams. If that sounds like you, there may be some interesting things from the sports world that you missed. Here’s a few that caught my eye in the last few weeks.

A billboard advertising UNLV football and basketball tickets was put up with the wrong basketball coach in the picture. The school’s former basketball coach Lon Kruger ended up on the billboard instead of current coach Dave Rice.

Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes in the first game of the NFL season and the Columbus Dispatch made an error and printed a headline giving John Elway credit for the record-setting performance.

Not many people would have guessed a month ago that Trent Richardson would be traded in September.

The Tennessee Titans started the season off on the wrong foot when Darius Reynaud caught the opening kickoff, took a step backward and went down to one knee, giving the Steelers a safety and a 2-0 lead. Things have since turned around for the Titans who are 3-1.

For the first time in NFL history, a game finished with the score 28-2. (Kansas City defeated Jacksonville)

Baseball’s home run leader Chris Davis hit a foul ball into his own jersey.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston made headlines when he said that he was looking forward to facing the Nevada Wolfpack because he wanted to see Wolfpack defensive end Brock Hekking’s mullet.

The Seattle Seahawks took an unusual step to increase fan safety at their home games, by announcing that there would be undercover police in the stadium wearing jerseys from the opposing teams.

Former Tampa Bay quarterback and team captain Josh Freeman didn’t help his cause with his teammates by not showing up for the annual team photo.

A TV station in Orlando actually apologized to its viewers for having to show the Jacksonville Jaguars game against the Oakland Raiders (due to NFL policy).

The Cleveland Browns shocked the NFL when they traded last year’s No. 3 overall pick, running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts. Nobody was more shocked than Richardson though, who learned of the trade by hearing it on the radio.

The NHL is putting in some new rules and one of them states that players will be penalized for removing their helmets before a fight. But that didn’t stop Krys Barch and Brett Gallant who kindly removed each others helmets so they could duke it out.

It took bunch of complaints from the fan base for someone with the Cincinnati Bengals to realize that a Katy Perry song is not a good choice for getting your team fired up to play football. Her new song “Roar” had been used all through the Bengals game against the Steelers.

In one of the more bizarre rivalries in college football, Concordia University and St. Olaf College faced off for the right to win a “Troll.” True story.

One Utah fan took the rivalry with BYU to a new level by sending in photos of a BYU player breaking school rules and got him suspended for five games right before the teams met on the field.

Brett Favre’s agent just had to do it again and announce that the former quarterback “could play today.” Haven’t we all suffered enough?

The Denver Broncos had such an easy time against the Oakland Raiders that the running backs Ronnie Hillman, Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball all wanted to score a touchdown and the decision of who would get the glory came down to – you guessed it – a game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Hillman was the winner and did score on a 1-yard run.

New Mexico State has such poor attendance at its football games that the school is now offering cash prizes to entice students to attend and stay at the games.

WNBA players Diana Taurasi and Siemone Augustus received a double-foul call after Taurasi kissed Augustus during the fourth quarter of the playoff game between Phoenix and Minnesota.

A high school team in Wisconsin put up a whopping 82 points in one game…and still lost. Final score: Oconomowoc 84, Wisconsin Lutheran School 82.

John Daly hit a golf ball out of a man’s mouth. And did it in the parking lot of a pizza joint in Nashville.

September 30, 2013

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5 Things To Watch As The NHL Season Approaches

By: Tyler Vespa

With only days until a new NHL season begins, let’s take a look at what happened this offseason, and look forward to a schedule that includes 6 outdoor games.

The Red Wings and the Leafs outside at the Big House? Check. Dodger Stadium? The Ducks? The Kings? West Coast? Check. A double dip in the Big Apple? Check. The Rangers will play the Devils and Islanders three days apart at Yankee Stadium. It wouldn’t be complete without the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field.

The Big House in Ann Arbor, MI will host the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs this season.

Canada’s version of the Winter Classic, the Heritage Classic will continue after a two-year absence. The Ottawa Senators will take on the Vancouver Canucks at BC Place in Vancouver on March 2nd.

With that here’s 5 things we should keep an eye on as the new season begins:

Realignment: Will the Red Wings march through the Eastern Conference? Is Winnipeg out of their league?

Training Camp: Will teams be sharper due to full offseason?

Olympic Year: Who’s going to challenge for the U.S. and Canadian rosters? Will certain players on worse teams focus more on country’s Olympic run?

Best Offseason – Dallas Stars: New GM Jim Nill traded for Tyler Seguin and also brought in Rich Peverly, Shawn Horcoff, and Sergei Gonchar. Combine that with star forward Jamie Benn and goaltender Kari Lehtonen and its great expectations in Dallas.

Worst Offseason: Tie- Buffalo, Calgary, Florida: The Sabres lost leading scorer Thomas Vanek, and star goalie Ryan Miller has been inconsistent. Buffalo failed to make a move to replace Vanek.

The Flames lost franchise star Jarome Iginla and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. Youth and inexperience haunts                               Calgary.

Of all the teams in league, the Panthers would probably win for negative effects brought on by the realignment. The competition for the Panthers in the new Atlantic Division is a considerable change as the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings are ready and waiting. Keep in mind, the Panthers finished dead last in the weakest division in the NHL last season.

It’s time to drop the gloves. Let’s play hockey.

July 31, 2013

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In Case You Missed It

By: Joe Williams

We all know about the Aaron Hernandez situation, Dwight Howard taking his talents to Houston and Ryan Braun getting suspended, but that’s not all the crazy stuff that happened in July. In case you actually have a life, here are a few stories that you may have missed.

Longtime New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur actually got to draft his son Anthony Brodeur for the Devils during the NHL draft.

During last week’s RBC Canadian Open, Hunter Mahan withdrew from the tournament to attend the birth of his first child. Mahan was leading the tournament and didn’t pull out until just before he was supposed to begin his third round, leaving his playing partner John Merrick playing in the final group by himself.

Not only did the Cincinnati Reds play a game in San Francisco as the home team, but during one of the  four-game series between the teams, the Giants grounds crew had a bit of trouble lining up the batter’s box. You shouldn’t have much trouble finding a photo of the screw up online.

When former Florida State offensive lineman Menelik Watson received his championship ring for the team’s win over Georgia Tech in the ACC title game, he was the only Seminoles player that got a ring that reads “2012 SEC Champions.” The rest of the team got rings with the correct conference inscribed on them.

The NCAA claimed that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo committed an NCAA violation when he tweeted “Welcome to the family” to a Class of 2015 wide receiver who recently committed to the University of Michigan.

“Call Me Maybe” singer Carly Rae Jepsen fired one of the worst first pitches I have ever seen. Video of that won’t be hard to find either.

A linebacker at the University of Florida was arrested for sticking his head in a police car and barking at a police dog.

One Cleveland Indians fan pulled off an incredible feat, catching four foul balls in the same game…the odds of which are about one in one trillion.

Another fan in Cleveland wasn’t so lucky. When Scott Entsminger passed away earlier this month, this ended up in his obituary…”A lifelong Cleveland Browns fan and season ticket holder, he also wrote a song each year and sent it to the Cleveland Browns as well as offering other advice on how to run the team. He respectfully requests six Cleveland Browns pall bearers so the Browns can let him down one last time.”

A battle royal erupted between two former Thai Olympic teammates during a doubles badminton match. They started trash-talking before the match even started and things continued to escalate until they fought from one end of the arena to the other. Both players received a black card.

And in the wildest story of the month former NBA player Baron Davis (the guy with the huge beard before James Harden) said that he was abducted by aliens while on a drive from Las Vegas to Los Angeles during a podcast interview. I’m not even going to go there on this one.

I can’t wait to see what happens in August as the NFL season approaches, and the baseball playoff races heat up.