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  • I’m sure many Kings fans are wondering why they drove through LA traffic to get to Staples Center tonight. Though the announced sellout attendance (18,118) is definitely a stretch and was not all at Staples Center tonight, a lot of fans dealt with LA traffic to watch their team get shut out at home by the Coyotes tonight. I, personally, hadn’t been able to attend a Kings game in 2011 yet, since I was in Pittsburgh for the Winter Classic and then sick. I’m still fighting my cold, but thought I was healthy enough to head to LA tonight. Looking back on that decision, it’s too bad I bothered to drive from Orange County to LA tonight.

    I know the Kings and their fans are upset about the call on the first Phoenix goal tonight on the power play. Was the puck above the cross bar when it got hit? Possibly. Did the puck hit Greene’s glove? I’d say definitely not. Could either of those been determined 100% from Toronto (or anywhere else) given the angles one has to review a goal? Sadly, probably not. The angles FSN had didn’t tell us the answer – even when I re-watched them in HD when I got home. Had the goal been called no goal on the ice, they wouldn’t have been able to overturn that, either. I know Dean Lombardi has already spoken out about the call in Toronto and I understand his frustration. However, referees make mistakes on the ice all the time. This situation is one reason I really think there needs to be some sort of device in a puck that can tell you where it is at any given time, including when it’s hit or covered by a goalie’s glove and hidden from view inside the net. In a regular season game like tonight’s in LA, a bad call isn’t a big issue. However, in the playoffs calls can really make a difference in a series and it would be nice to see the NHL address this issue. Puck calls are critical in close games and something needs to be done to ensure the proper ruling can be made.

    Everyone can debate whether the 2nd Coyotes goal would have been scored without the potentially bad call on the 1st questionable goal all season. However, the hard fact is that the Kings needed to respond by stepping up their game, not coughing the puck up to allow an unassisted goal against them less than a minute after the call they clearly don’t think is fair. In the end, you can’t win without scoring a goal and the Kings had many power play opportunities they couldn’t convert. One goal against your team shouldn’t be the end of the world – especially less than halfway through a 60 minute game. Most fans know that when a team is winning, all the bounces seem to go their way. When they’re not, the bounces (and the calls) all seem to go against your team. Right now, that’s something the Kings fans are seeing the bad side of again. Sadly, they’ve seen the down side of that a lot the last few years.

    Frustration is something all Kings and their fans know very well right now and tonight was definitely no exception. When I talked to Kopitar about the upcoming extended road trip (the Grammy’s are coming to LA, as always at this time of the year), he said looking back to last year it’s satisfying to know that they were able to pull off some wins on the road then and that this year, “There’s no other way, we’re gonna have to do it. If we want to get into a good playoff mix, we’re gonna have to do it on the road.” He went on to say the Kings “definitely have the character, the personnel, the talent” to do it and that they’ll break through eventually. Their fans are certainly hoping it’s soon, since the Kings are running out of time to turn things around this season and everyone knows it. They need to break out of this cycle now.

    A side note about the standings and points for overtime losses… The Coyotes have lost 9 games in overtime or shootout situations this season. Until tonight’s game in LA, the Coyotes had actually lost one more game than they’d won (they’d won only 23 games and lost 24). Until they beat the Kings tonight, the Kings had more wins (24) than the Coyotes this season, yet the Coyotes were ranked 6th going into tonight’s game, while the Kings were sitting back in 12th. I’ve never agreed for giving points to a losing team. Perhaps it’s because I grew up with baseball as my main sport and there’s no such thing as getting a point for losing a baseball game – even if it goes to 22 innings. I don’t think one should get rewarded for losing and the difference in the standings between Phoenix and LA illustrate that perfectly.

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  • In spite of the fact that this year’s Winter Classic was up against prime time bowl games and other hockey games along with other prime time programming and all the activities people do outside of the home on Saturday nights, it was the most successful Winter Classic. The 2011 Winter Classic actually had the best ratings of any NHL game since 1975 with 4.5 million viewers. Four of the top five rated NHL games of all time are the Winter Classics and this year’s Winter Classic had an 81% increase in Pittsburgh viewers over the 2008 Winter Classic (the first ever, where the Penguins played the Sabres in Buffalo).

    In the Christmas Eve Winter Classic Preview, Versus pointed out that Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin had the same number of points. Of course, Crosby got his 571 points in only 410 games (1.39 points per game). Ovechkin has played 435 games (1.31 points per game). Neither of the super stars the NHL and NBC clearly wanted to highlight in this New Year’s Day match-up scored in the Winter Classic this year. Evgeni Malkin did score, but he wasn’t in most of the advertising I saw for the Winter Classic. How about you? The NHL and NBC concentrated on two players and neither of them had much of an impact on Saturday night’s game. Alex did almost score, but it was called off due to his interference with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

    Crosby’s first Winter Classic appearance couldn’t have been scripted much better. This year’s Winter Classic is memorable for other reasons. It’s the first Winter Classic played in prime time and the first NHL game where the players (and most of the 68,111 fans in attendance) were in the rain for much of the game. Thankfully, the Classic was still able to be completed Saturday night, but I’m sure the conditions affected the game a lot. The streak trailing the puck and skates made that clear. Most fans I talked to on my way out were still in great sprits, in spite of the weather conditions and (for Pittsburgh fans) the outcome of the game. Capitals fans and Penguins fans were even chanting “Flyers suck” on and off on their very long way out of the building in the crowds – something on which they could agree even when the Capitals had just beaten the Penguins.

    The visiting team has now won ¾ of the Winter Classic games, so the 2011 Winter Classic outcome is probably not very surprising. The good news for Penguins fans is that it’s just ONE regular season game. Though the buildup is high and the event is amazing, in the end the Winter Classic is just one out of 82 games played in the regular season. The Penguins beat the Capitals in Washington to start out their 2010-11 series and the Caps beat the Pens at home in the Winter Classic. The Pens are still two points ahead of the Caps in the standings, having played the same number of games (40). Sidney Crosby is still 23 points and 18 goals ahead of Alex Ovechkin this season. I’d say the Penguins are winning the war in spite of losing the Winter Classic battle and most of their fans seemed to realize this fact.

    Overall, most fans seemed excited about the prime time Winter Classic game. Many fans I talked to about the change were more excited about the 8pm game than they’d been about the game when it was supposed to start at 1pm. Clearly, the 8pm start on New Year’s Day gave fans of both teams a lot more time to recover from New Year’s Eve and tailgate. Though I know hockey is popular and fans love to tailgate, I was amazed at the number of fans who were tailgating outside of Heinz Field as I walked by. Fans obviously took advantage of the later start and partied in preparation for the game.

    The game itself might not have been a great example of NHL talents, but the 2011 Winter Classic will be remembered as the first Winter Classic with rain and to take place in prime time. The prime time start was so successful this year, perhaps the NHL should consider moving the Winter Classic to prime time going forward.

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  • The Pan Pacific championships had only been held in the United States one other time since they started in 1985 (they were in Atlanta, GA in 1995). Swimming is one of my favorite Summer Olympic sports, so when I saw that the championships were going to be a few miles away (and practically on my way home from work), I had to go. I wanted to make sure I saw Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps (my two favorite American swimmers). They both competed the first night and Michael Phelps was swimming the 200m fly – the stroke I most wanted to watch live. I used to swim a lot and though I was pretty good at butterfly, it’s definitely my least favorite. Butterfly is definitely the most impressive to watch on TV and live, though.

    Not surprisingly, Phelps won the 200m fly. Though he won with the fastest time this year, he was clearly disappointed and ready to put this race behind him and concentrate on doing it better next time. In his post-win interview, he said he was far from the shape he wants to be in going into the Olympics in 2012. He may not have beaten his world record, but Phelps looked pretty good from where I was sitting. Ryan Lochte won the 200m free, which was also great to see live. Not surprisingly, he was much more pleased with his performance than Phelps. Lochte’s teammate Peter Vanderkaay came in third Aaron Peirsol, who was only in the A final of the 50m back because Lochte dropped out (he decided to only compete in one event per day) won the race. He thanked Lochte from dropping out of the race in his post-win interview.

    Allison Schmitt won the women’s 200m freestyle, followed by Morgan Scroggy as the US women finished 1-2 in that event. Teresa Crippen and Kathleen Hersey finished 2-3 in the 200m fly, Christine Magnuson won bronze in the 50m butterfly, and Natalie Coughlin won bronze in the 100m backstroke. The United States definitely had a great start in the swimming championships.

    The Australians also did very well, starting off the night with two swimmers (only one of whom was in the A finals heat) tying for the Pan Pacific Championship record in the 50m fly. Marieke Guehrer won gold alone, since her teammate Yolane Kukla who set the Pan Pacific Championship record in the first race of the night was in the consolation final.

    Needless to say, NBC didn’t show the event live, but they were there tonight and will air highlights of the championships Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon (Pacific time). It’s really great that NBC will be televising the championships in HD, though. I look forward to seeing the races I watched (and the rest of the championships) from another angle.

    I really enjoyed my first big swimming event. Until tonight, I don’t think I’d attended a swimming meet where I didn’t compete. It was very exciting to see world championship swimming so close to home. I never would have expected to see swimming championships in Orange County. Those of us in southern California are very lucky. We’ve had one of the mildest summers I can remember as the rest of the country has been facing record highs and we get to watch the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships live. What more could an Olympic-obsessed hockey fan trying to fill the time before the NHL season starts up again want? Training camps start in just a little under a month, so it won’t be long before the NHL is back. It was nice to have the swimming championships as a distraction until the NHL returns.

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  • The NHL Awards and Draft were in the same week this year, making it easier for those coming from the east and north to Las Vegas for the Awards and Los Angeles for the Entry Draft. It was a bit of a crazy week for everyone, but definitely exciting.

    This year’s show seemed a bit more polished than last year’s even if some of Jay Mohr’s jokes didn’t go over well with everyone. I heard a couple people complain that the NHL was trying to be too funny at the Awards, but I think we all need to remember that they’re trying to appeal to the masses and it’s hard to please everyone. Who knows. Maybe it’s possible that someone will flip by the NHL Network or Versus at the right time, see Jay Mohr, and watch because they think he’s funny. I suppose stranger things have happened, though many people who are huge hockey fans don’t watch the NHL Awards, so I’d say it’s pretty unlikely.

    Most of the awards this year were about as predictable as last year. I think that until Datsyuk retires they should just print his name on the Frank J. Selke Trophy at the start of the season. He’s won it three years in a row now and doesn’t seem to be letting up any on the defensive aspect of his game. It was a bit surprising that this year he only won by 33 points and only received one more vote for 1st place than Ryan Kesler of Vancouver. Perhaps he’s getting close to being dethroned as the Selke winner.

    Though I expected Henrik Sedin to win the Hart and he did, I think if you take the Hart trophy as they say it should be (“the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team”) that Ovechkin should have won it. Since Henrik’s twin Daniel Sedin was only .02 points per game behind Henrik, I’m not sure Henrik was as important to his team as Alex Ovechkin was to his – especially when you take into consideration the fact that Roberto Luongo is the goalie behind the Sedin twins. Clearly, the 46 people who voted for Henrik Sedin for the Hart 1st place disagree with me, but it’s something to consider.

    I had never attended the NHL Entry Draft (or any other league’s draft, for that matter), so I didn’t really know what to expect having just seen the draft on TV. It’s definitely different to watch the draft from the back of the floor of the arena where everything is happening and be able to duck out to interview those drafted right away. The excitement of the draft doesn’t seem to come across well enough on a TV even in HD.

    Not too surprisingly, Versus disappointed me yet again. I’m glad I attended this year’s draft live, since otherwise I would have watched it in standard definition. The first round of the draft was shown in standard definition on Versus HD for some reason. Someone messed up the feeds, I guess, since the NHL Network re-aired the TSN feed (same thing Versus was showing) in HD on NHL Network HD. Thankfully, I thought to check this out and got to watch the parts of the draft I wanted to see in HD. I don’t think I’ll ever understand the way Versus makes their decisions. If they can get the HD feed, I don’t see why they would choose not to use it. I’m sure there was some complicated reason behind it, but the NHL Network aired rounds 2-7 live in HD from TSN, so Versus should have been able to do the same with the first round.

    As usual, there were some surprises with players dropping farther than anyone predicted (like Fowler, Gormley, & Etem), but teams always have their reasons for who they choose to draft and most GMs are understandably pretty tight lipped on the matter.

    I missed it when I watched the broadcast, but I did hear TSN correct their previous statement during the second day of the draft… My dad pointed out when I talked to him that TSN had said there were eleven US players selected in the first round of the draft, breaking the record previously set. I re-counted the US players at that point and still came up with ten (the same number the NHL had mentioned in their press release immediately handed to us after the round ended). I told him that they probably got confused, since one of the non-US born players did come from a US hockey amateur club. From TSN’s discussion the second day, that seemed to be the confusion. I was pretty shocked that TSN would get anything so black and white wrong, since they’ve been covering the draft forever, but I know that draft day is pretty nuts and I’m sure they just looked in the wrong column when they were tallying the American players.

    As always, there is debate about what team did best in this year’s draft and (also as always) the truth of the matter is that there is no way to tell how well a team did until years down the line. Look at the steal the Kings got in Lucky Luc Robitaille, selected 171st overall in the 9th round. Though I wasn’t a hockey fan yet in 1984, I can’t imagine anyone on TSN or anywhere else predicting that the Kings did a great job with that pick.

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  • The death of Georgian luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili is tragic and a horrible thing to happen – especially when it was the main news on the day of the Opening Ceremonies and happened before the ceremonies took place. I understand why tonight’s NBC broadcast (and probably many around the world) started by mentioning the tragic event from earlier today. In spite of the warning (I’m glad NBC threw that in, I had no desire to see what I’d already seen described), I don’t think it was appropriate to start the broadcast with video of the tragic death. The Olympics Opening Ceremonies are watched by people of all ages and I think the video of the death could have been shown tomorrow and only made available online initially. I’m sure many disagree and were glad they got to see the video of the tragic death in HD on the opening night of the Olympics, but I wish NBC had handled the situation differently.

    I was very disappointed with NBC’s coverage of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and I’m hopeful that this year’s coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver will be much better. I know a lot of people on the west coast who still believe we will get live coverage of the 2010 Olympic Games (which we did not in the Beijing games even when the east was able to watch Michael Phelps win gold again and again live). I don’t know why they believe this will happen, since the Olympics are taking place in the same time zone. I doubt it happened in 1984 when the Summer Olympics were in Los Angeles. I didn’t live here at the time, but I know how coverage has been more recently and I doubt it happened. Those of us on the west coast don’t get the Oscars live even though they take place in Los Angeles. Why would NBC allow us to watch any Olympics live? Like all other sports broadcasting in the United States, the NBC Olympics will most likely be very east coast centered. The Opening Ceremonies started at 7:30 pm here. They started at 7:30pm on the east coast. So, unless those on the west coast have DirecTV or Dish with the east coast NBC channels, they will not be able to see the Olympics live. Those on the east coast finished watching the Olympics Opening Ceremonies live not long after those of us on the west coast could start watching them if we wanted to watch them live. My plan had been to sign up for the east coast channels for the Olympics from now on so I could watch the broadcasts earlier (though still not live), but I can’t get DirecTV, so that’s not possible. I’ll be at the Olympics in less than a week, though, so it wouldn’t have made sense to pay extra money for a week’s worth of advantage anyway.

    NBC definitely did a lot right in tonight’s broadcast. One of the best things was that they interviewed a lot of athletes from different sports. They didn’t just interview those from the sports that are most popular. They interviewed a variety of Olympians. They even interviewed Jack Johnson, the only American NHL player at the Opening Ceremonies. I did think it was bad that the reporter insisted on making Jack say who he thought would light the flame for the Olympic Games to begin. Most of us thought it would be Wayne Gretzky (and although I it hasn’t gotten to that point as I type this in the west coast broadcast, I could easily find out if we’re all correct online). Not surprisingly, Johnson’s answer when pressed was, “I’ll go with Gretzky – seems like the safe bet.” He realized resisting the reporter was futile and gave the answer we’d all expect from almost anyone asked that question. The interviews might not have been very good, but at least they chose a variety of Olympic sports and not just a couple people everyone in the country recognizes already.

    The Opening Ceremonies also gave us our first North American TV coverage of former NHL star Jaromir Jagr (who won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 91 & 92, his first two seasons in the NHL) in quite a while. Clearly, he’ll be prominent in the Czech Republic’s men’s ice hockey team competition later in the Olympics. Initially, a couple of the flag bearers surprised me, and then I remembered that most of the NHL players were not as lucky as Jack Johnson and couldn’t attend the Opening Ceremonies even if they really wanted to do so. Johnson had the advantage of being on the west coast, not having a game that night or the next afternoon, being allowed to skip a practice, etc. I don’t think getting to attend the Opening Ceremonies should be something NHL players typically can’t do. If the NHLPA is able to keep Olympic participation in their contract, I think they should get an Olympic break that covers Opening Ceremonies through Closing Ceremonies. Part of the reason Jack Johnson of the LA Kings was the first American NHL player to attend the Opening Ceremonies is that he’s one of the only NHL players who would have the chance. Since NHL teams are not likely to allow players to skip games to attend the ceremony, the NHL schedule eliminates the possibility to attend for most NHL Olympians. I think they should all be able to do what Jack has decided to do and take in as much of the Olympics as possible if that’s what they’d like. Normally, the Olympics are too far away and one couldn’t fly to them and get back in time for a morning skate the next day. I realize that a lot of Olympians from all sports (winter and summer) choose not to attend because of early competitions the next day, training, or even because they’re not interested in the long ordeal of the Opening Ceremonies. I think the NHL players should also have a choice. I know they’re not leaving for NHL games, but they are playing the same sport they play in the NHL and getting a lot of completely free (to the NHL) advertising for the NHL. I’d think the NHL would want as much national coverage as they can get.

    My best friend doesn’t follow the NHL (other than what he hears through me on a regular basis) and he isn’t a huge fan of sports outside the Olympics, but he noticed that they interviewed Jack Johnson during the Opening Ceremonies and immediately thought of me, since he knew Johnson was an NHL player. National TV coverage is something that’s good for any sport. If the NHL is trying to expand their audience, why not advertise on one of the biggest world stages available for a bit longer? Allowing the players to all attend the Opening Ceremonies (if they’d like) would give the NHL more national exposure. The Kings have gotten a lot more national coverage this year than they normally do, since they’ve been doing well and have been mentioned on the NHL Network a lot more. In spite of that coverage, more people in the United States saw Jack Johnson’s interview than would ever see anything on the NHL Network or Versus. I think the NHL should break earlier for the Olympics and encourage their players to enjoy the whole Olympic experience if they’d like.

    I think the graphics when the countries were entering were well done. I liked how they showed where each country can be found on a world map starting out at the United States was. It was a neat touch and a good graphic concept that was also well executed. The way they listed the upcoming countries was okay, but I think that the bottom bar graphic could have been a lot smaller. There was no need for it to take up almost ¼ of the height in the HD broadcast.

    I think all the projection design of the Opening Ceremonies was amazing. I think they did a better job than China with the visuals for the projection. The opening with the ice breaking apart was so well choreographed. I’m sure that those acting in that segment could barely (if at all) see the icebergs breaking apart below them on the screen due to the lighting on them. I can’t imagine how many hours that took to coordinate. The one guy even “swam” for a while and then grabbed on to another iceberg. I thought that was amazing. My favorite part of the Opening Ceremonies came not long after that section – the whales. I don’t know how they did it, but the whales looked like they were breaking through the plane of the screen with the other whales. I still have the Opening Ceremonies on my DVR and have already watched the ice breaking, whales, etc. a second time. I’m sure that won’t be the last.

    Some of the segments I really liked (like the step dancing with the leaves, the running then flying through the fields, etc.) were great initially, but seemed to go on a bit long.

    Everyone knew Wayne Gretzky would be the one lighting the flame. What we didn’t know was that for the main part of the ceremony he would be joined by basketball player Steve Nash, skier Nancy Greene, and speed skater Catriona LeMay Doan. I thought that was a wonderful touch and a great surprise. The technical difficulty was unfortunate and it was clear those about to light the flame didn’t know what to do and were wondering what was going on like the rest of us. I think the torch lighting was still pretty well done. The extra two and a half minutes seemed like an eternity. I understand the awkward looks on the faces of everyone as the ceremony came to an unexpected stand still, but Gretzky had to know there were a ton of cameras on him throughout the ride to the outside flame location. Couldn’t he have pretended to look excited about being the one to light the other flame? I was very surprised that he didn’t look happy to be a part of something so amazing.

    As usual, I don’t think that the Opening Ceremonies should have sports guys announcing the events. They don’t seem to study their media guides enough, since they often aren’t able to name the Olympians in the close-ups. I think they need people who are used to doing parades or heck, just any really huge Olympic fans who will study their guides. They do not need to be sports or news people. They need to be people who can help the audience with some of the things they might not know from time to time and who will be quiet and allow the home audience to fully enjoy and appreciate most of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. NBC never seems to get this part right. I hope NBC will air some events live on the west coast (especially the bronze and gold medal hockey matches), but if the NBC site is accurate that will not be the case. The gold medal match is listed on the Official Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics site as being at 12:15pm on February 28th. NBC lists the game airing at 3pm on NBC in Los Angeles. Some people will not avoid the news of the gold medal game and enjoying a game when you already know the outcome is a lot more difficult. Why is it so impossible to allow everyone across the country to watch a major event (like a gold medal match in the Olympics) live?

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  • Brian Burke and Francois Beauchemin had triumphant returns to Honda Center and the Ducks took some careless penalties as they lost to the Maple Leafs at home. Toronto hadn’t won a single game and only had one point in their first 8 games of the season. Only one team had failed to beat the Maple Leafs in regulation, but the Ducks managed to take enough penalties to make the Leafs’ 6-3 win possible with only one even strength goal.

    The Ducks took a total of 17 penalties for 45 penalty minutes tonight. Anaheim’s first goal was definitely suspect and watching it again at home in HD on FSN after the game, it was easier to see why Ron Wilson took the bench minor for “abuse of officials” after they didn’t make the call to wave the Ducks’ goal off due to goaltender interference. I’ve definitely seen goals called off for a lot less, but unfortunately for the Maple Leafs goaltender interference is not something they can review – if it’s not called on the ice, the goal stands. At least the goal didn’t end up making the difference in the game. If it had, I’m sure Ron Wilson would have been irate. In spite of having the first power play of the game and a middle of the league power play against the Maple Leafs’ dead last in the league (before the start of tonight’s game – the Ducks may have helped the Leafs in that area) penalty kill, the Ducks only had three power play chances and went 1 for 3 on the power play tonight. The Leafs also took quite a few penalties (10 penalties for 31 minutes), but most of them were offset by the Ducks’ penalties. The Maple Leafs went 5 for 11 on the power play tonight. The Toronto power play was only 12th in the league (22.2%) at the start of the game, but their 45% power play in tonight’s game is better than the best power play in the league (the Calgary Flames, 32.3%).

    While I’m sure there are a couple goals Hiller would like to have back, I’m sure the Ducks fans know that he and his 85% save percentage were not the real problem. Most of the goals were scored on the power play (3 scored with a 2 man advantage). Randy Carlyle stuck with his goalie and didn’t pull him from the game when he knew it wasn’t Hiller’s fault that the Ducks were doing poorly. The real problem tonight was the Ducks’ lack of control. The Ducks’ bad penalty killing can’t even be blamed. What team could be expected to survive the penalties the Ducks took in their game against the Maple Leafs?

    Hagman’s hat trick led the way for the Maple Leafs and though most of the fans left in the building as he scored his 3rd goal of the game were Toronto fans, no hats made it to the ice. Kaberle had a goal and 4 assists and Stempniak had 4 points (1-3) in the Maple Leafs’ big win against the Ducks.

    I was talking to a friend who has Ducks season tickets before the game. He was planning on going to the game with a friend who’s a Maple Leafs fan and said that his goal was to “see one of the bottom teams in the league win a game.” He knew he couldn’t lose with that goal, since the Ducks were one of the bottom teams in the NHL and the Maple Leafs are still in last place even though they finally got their first win against the Ducks.

    It’s early in the season (only 9-12 games of the 82 in the season have been played by teams at this point), but the games at the beginning of the season count as much as the games at the end and teams like the Maple Leafs and Ducks have to be hoping that they find the right combination soon. The Ducks did make major changes to their top lines and their defensive pairings, but after the preseason and 10 games of the season, one would expect them to be getting used to each other and finding chemistry somehow. If they’re not, perhaps the lines aren’t set the way they should be yet. Maybe some more line changes need to be made.

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  • Last night, the Anaheim Ducks gave up the 3-0 lead they had at the end of the 2nd to lose 4-3 in OT to the Minnesota Wild (in Minnesota). The Kings had a 4-0 lead against the Sharks until more than half-way through the game. With 4 minutes left in the 2nd period, the Sharks scored on their first power play of the game. One power play later, the Sharks were down only 4-2. A minute into the third period, the Kings were only up by one goal, since the Sharks had scored their 3rd power play goal of the night. Though I’m sure not taking penalties was emphasized on the Kings bench, the Sharks got their fourth power play goal at 14:24 in the 3rd period. In just under a full period, the Kings had gone from being up 4-0 to being tied at 4.

    Needless to say, many were thinking that the Kings were going to crash and burn as the Ducks had in Minnesota earlier that night. The guy next to me in the press box even said something like, “I’m going to the Sharks’ locker room tonight.” Of course, before I even had a chance to respond with a comment about how he shouldn’t assume the Kings were going to lose, the Kings scored a goal. Just 26 seconds after the game tying goal, the Kings had regained the lead with Teddy Purcell’s first goal of the season. That allowed me to tell him to have fun, since the happy guys were going to be down the hall in the Kings’ locker room. Davis Drewiske got his first NHL goal into the empty net with less than two minutes to go in the game and sealed the fate of the Sharks.

    Last year, I think the game would have ended with a deflated Kings team and my buddy next to me in the press box heading to talk to the Sharks. Once the Sharks tied the game, the Kings of last year would have probably thought the game was over, which would have been a self-fulfilling prophecy. The fans would have gone home upset that their team had started 0-2 again and would have started to question (even though it’s early) all those predictions about the Kings making it back into the playoffs this year.

    It is early in the season and it’s definitely too early to say that this game is a good sign for the Kings in continuing to stay in the game (the way they did with their two goal lead early in the 2nd period and when the Sharks had tied the game), just as it was too early to throw in the towel after the Kings’ first game. However, I think the Kings fans should be pretty happy with their team right now. The Kings definitely need to work on their penalty kill – no question. Since the Kings had one of the best penalty kills in the league last year and have most of the same guys, I’m not concerned about their ability to improve their pk. The players know they’re capable of doing better on the penalty kill and aren’t concerned, which is also a positive sign for the fans.

    If you had told anyone last year that the three California teams would start out with 1-2-0, 0-1-1 & 1-1-0 records, I doubt anyone would have picked the Kings as one of the teams with a win. I’m sure everyone would have chosen the Kings to start out with the worst record. Though it’s early, the Kings were blasting music in the locker room last night and happy that they refused to give up and fought back to beat the Sharks.

    In other good news, Kings fans who could not make it to Staples Center last night were able to watch the game in HD! All games on FSN West and Prime Ticket will be broadcast in HD, which is a huge step up from last year’s 10 games.

    Also, for those Kings fans who worried that Rob Scuderi had won the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh and might not play as hard for a the Kings in LA… I think Rob proved himself to be the tough guy he’s always been last night. Scuderi took a puck to the nose (it’s not broken, just caused gushing blood) and only missed a shift as they got him cleaned up and made sure that he wouldn’t bleed all over as he went out to play the rest of the game. If Scuderi will do that this early in the season for the Kings, I don’t think there’s any question about how hard he’s going to play in LA. He’s clearly here to win games, which makes sense. Anyone who’s been on a team (of any level) that wins a championship knows how great it feels to win. Why would anyone choose to move to a team they didn’t think had a bright future? Scuderi’s not the party boy Jeremy Roenick was when he was in Los Angeles. Rob’s here to help the Kings make it into the playoffs and I think he can do that.

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  • Initially, I was annoyed that the Kings and Ducks home opening games (this year also both season openers) were the same night and only a half hour apart again. I was additionally annoying that the Ducks game was only on in standard definition, since I planned on watching it when I got home from the Kings game. In hind sight, I see that the NHL scheduling gods were saving us from being able to watch both of these horrible opening games live. After seeing the box score of the Ducks/Sharks game, I couldn’t bear to watch it – especially without being able to see it in HD. (Like most people with HD, a show has to be really amazing for me to bother watching it if it’s not on a channel I get in HD.)

    The Kings looked very unorganized and a lot more like a team trying to figure out their lines in preseason than a game playing their home opener in front of a sold out crowd at Staples Center. There were (of course) some empty seats in the lower and club levels, but that will almost always be the case in LA and those seats were sold. Near the end of the second period, a fan near us shouted “Preseason’s over!” We had been discussing how it didn’t seem like the Kings were aware that the season had started. Perhaps if the fan had gotten her whole section to scream that the season had started it would have helped, but I doubt it.

    When trying to look at the bright sides of last night’s Kings game, it was pretty difficult from the Kings perspective. The Kings did get 3 goals in 8 power plays, but it would be nice to see them be able to score outside of the power play, to stop giving the puck away, and to look like a team that had practiced with each other. Murray has always said his focus is on defense and I’m guessing today’s practice emphasized the complete breakdown they had last night in that area. The home opener is supposed to be a time for fans to celebrate the beginning of a new season. The player introductions were well done this year (complete with castle façade) and the graphics used on the jumbotron have been improved, but that can’t do enough to help the fans feel better about the performance of their team on the ice.

    One of my friends pointed out that the Kings have had a good record in home openers for a while, so perhaps last night’s game is actually a good sign. Maybe they won’t peak too early in the season and they’ll actually make the playoffs. I hadn’t thought about that angle. It might be something to give the Kings fans hope.

    Since I didn’t actually see the Ducks game, I can’t comment on their play, but their fans clearly wanted more than their team getting killed in their first game of the season – especially since that first game was at home.

    On the bright side for both southern California teams and their fans, it was only one game. They have 81 left in the season and both futures are potentially bright.

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  • When the NFL kicked off their season on Thursday, September 10th, there was one game that night. The Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers faced the Tennessee Titans at home. That game was the only game on opening day. It was nationally televised and well advertised. They showed the ceremony with the fireworks and the Steelers started off their season with the NFL world watching them celebrate their championship a bit before the game started.

    As the MLB kicked off their season on Sunday, April 5th, the only regular season game that day was played by the World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies as they faced the Atlanta Braves at home. This opening game of the season was also available for all baseball fans to enjoy as the Phillies celebrated their win with their fans one last time before starting the new season.

    The NBA started off their season last year on October 28th with a double header on TNT starting with the NBA Championship Boston Celtics hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers. The second game of the double header featured the first regular season game for the number one draft pick in the 2007 NBA draft.

    All of these leagues have a few things in common. The reigning champion of the league gets to start off the next season. The start of the season is a well advertised event with countdowns on public websites. The opening game and pre-game events are nationally televised in HD for anyone in the country to see without a special sports package. The national TV coverage of the games happens on a channel that everyone with cable gets (I realize that TNT is a cable channel) for free. They don’t need to purchase a sports package (as I do in order to get Versus) and the channels are all on DirecTV (which Versus is not as I write this – I’m still hoping they’ll work that out before I move, since I really want to change back to DirecTV when I’m able to get it). These games also all take place in the United States of America.

    In contrast, the NHL starts their season with four games on opening day (Thursday, October 1st). Two of these games are nationally televised (including HD) on Versus – the Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins (7pm) and the San Jose Sharks at Colorado Avalanche (10pm). The other teams playing on opening day are The Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, and Calgary Flames. None of the teams playing on opening day were even in the Stanley Cup Finals last season. In fact, only three teams out of the eight playing on opening day made it out of the first round of the playoffs. They (the Capitals, Bruins, & Canucks) were all eliminated in the conference semifinals.

    The Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins play their first game the second night of the hockey season. They play the 8th game of the season and will have all the fanfare of raising the Stanley Cup Championship banner with only local audiences (Pittsburgh & New York City) as well as those of us who have the NHL Network (a pay channel on my cable service). I am hoping the NHL Network shows the Pittsburgh feed of the game. Center Ice normally airs the home feed for home openers and I’m hoping the NHL Network will do the same. I’m also hoping that when entering the info someone just forgot to check the box to select that the show is in HD, since as of this morning the repeats on the NHL HD Network are going to be in HD, but the live feed will not. I think it’s horrible that the first game of the reigning champs isn’t nationally televised on a channel that’s easily accessible to all sports fans. Those wanting to see the raising of the banner living in New York will most likely have to settle for YouTube replays or watching it on the Penguins’ website, since the NHL Network feed will be blacked out in NYC due to the MSG telecast. I’m sure the Rangers will do the same thing the Ducks did when they played in the Penguins’ first home game a few years ago and cut out anything fans of the Penguins would want to see of the opening of the season and local fans will not get a choice.

    The NHL messes up a lot of their marketing (or lack of marketing, as it were). Their not acknowledging the reigning Stanley Cup Champion is just one of many errors. The NHL continually tries to compete with the NBA (which will always be more popular in most parts of the US). This competition makes it difficult for some people (especially those in southern California and other areas where local basketball teams were doing well) to find a bar that will show the games if they’d like to go out with friends to enjoy them (or, as in the case of my one friend, didn’t have cable and needed to find someone willing to show hockey that had Versus – at least Versus and DirecTV didn’t have their battle until the playoffs ended). If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that Bettman was brought in to lower the NHL’s ratings and prove that it should eliminate some teams. A lot of the choices he’s made seem more like the choices networks make when they want to kill a show’s ratings. I could talk about different errors in judgment the NHL makes for ages like most hockey fans.

    Southern California residents not attending the Ducks’ season opener (also their season opener), which is the same night as (and only a half hour apart from) the Kings’ season & home opener, will be disappointed if they’d like to watch it later. It’s one of the few games airing on KDOC instead of Fox Sports Prime Ticket or West, so it will only be aired in standard definition. I’ll be at the Kings game that night and was disappointed that the Ducks’ first game of the season will not be televised in HD. I think this is another bad marketing choice, though this one was probably made by FSN & KDOC, not the Ducks. I’m sure the Ducks would prefer all of their games to be aired in HD. Who wouldn’t? It makes fans happy and that’s the goal, isn’t it?

    I know fans of all sports complain about choices those running the league make, but how is it possible that all the other major league team sports in the country have figured out that celebrating the reigning champion is a good idea and the NHL still hasn’t understood this simple fact? It doesn’t take a brilliant mind to figure out that having one (or two) game(s) to open the season and making a big deal out of the opening night with the current champ as well as nationally televising that game (and the game after it, if applicable) is a good marketing strategy. For all of Bettman’s talk about expanding interest in the NHL in the United States, he doesn’t seem to make choices supporting the concept.

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  • I’m a huge fan of NHL hockey, so you’d think I’d own a lot of NHL DVDs (NHL’s Greatest Moments, The Vintage Classics series, specials on various Penguins and Kings, Stanley Cup DVDs, etc.). However, if you own any NHL DVDs, you know what I know. NHL DVDs are not well put together. I own the Pittsburgh Penguins: 10 Greatest Games 10 DVD set and just had to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins 2009 Stanley Cup Champions DVD. Every time I see a DVD the NHL releases, I know not to expect much. However, there’s always this hope that they’ve learned since the last DVD or DVD set they put out and that this DVD will be different. It’s not.

    I finally got around to watching my Pittsburgh Penguins 2009 Stanley Cup Champions DVD and it is horrible. First of all, though almost all of the playoff games were aired in HD (some not nationally, but most were recorded in HD somewhere), there is no Blu-ray option to purchase. The next big complaint I have about the DVD is that there’s not much on it.

    There are only five items in the Bonus Materials section. The 2009 Playoff Overtime Goals is okay and they made some good choices. However, it’s less than 8.5 minutes long and a large portion of that time is taken up with the horrible graphics telling you that these are “LATE GOAL HEROICS” and the specific game and period info for each goal shown.

    The Best of 2008-2009 bonus feature gets you the worst video compilation I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen compilations on YouTube). EVERY one of these highlights has graphics over them or black & gray bars above and below with distracting changes happening all the time, or fades to black all around the picture. This completely obscures the highlights they’re supposed to be showing in this section, which is a real shame. Whoever chose the highlights made some very good choices. All the clutter makes it very difficult to enjoy even a second of the one minute long (yes, the complete fade to black happens before the end of the 1.03 minute chapter) segment. I remember watching many of the highlights in their games and they were great. It’s too bad they chose so few moments and that then covered or surrounded their choices by constantly moving graphics to distract the viewer from the hockey highlights they’d like to enjoy.

    The Bill Guerin Practice Wireless bonus is amusing. They put a mic on Guerin for a practice and included it on this DVD. It’s a little over 10.5 minutes long and is definitely entertaining for any Penguins fan. They didn’t put graphics over it or destroy the picture or the sound. The Game 7 Celebration (about 14.5 minutes) was also well done. They talked to the players on the ice, showed some of the locker room celebration, and didn’t destroy it by putting extra graphics over the footage. The Parade segment (about 11 minutes) was also shown well.

    Unfortunately, that makes for about 35 minutes of good features, 8.5 minutes of good footage with WAY too much time spent on the horrible graphics telling you what you’re watching, and 1 minute of truly painful footage of highlights you can barely see through the overlays and annoying surrounding graphics.

    The main feature has good highlights from the regular season through the parade with brief interviews in-between segments and is well done. It’s over an hour long and is well done. It’s a shame the rest of the DVD couldn’t be put together as well as the main feature. Perhaps they’re all done by different divisions, but I’d think someone would watch the DVD before releasing it. The older DVDs being bad is understandable, but technology has come a long way. Why isn’t the NHL using it to their advantage?

    Fortunately, I still have the complete game 7 on my DVR, but I’m able to go back to DirecTV (as soon as I move, I can’t get it from my current place), I won’t be able to watch game 7 any more in HD. I’m sure the NHL will release a special edition 2008-09 Stanley Cup Champions box set, but I doubt it’ll be released in HD. Of course, until they release the set, I’ll keep hoping that someone will figure out that a lot of hockey fans have upgraded to HDTV and Blu-ray Disc. Though I prefer all HDTV to anything on a standard definition channel, I think the difference is most noticeable in sports – especially hockey. Anyone who has ever flipped from a game they’re watching in HD to a game that was only televised in standard definition knows what I mean. The quality is very drastically different and initially, it’s painful to watch – much more than switching from high definition to standard definition in regular TV. It’s possible part of the problem is the feed from the network in question being poorer quality than most of the television on normal cable these days, but I think the main issue is the fact that once you get used to being able to see the detail of a hockey game going back to the old way is like moving from being at the game to watching the game from a bar. It’s a huge downgrade.

    Here’s hoping the NHL will finally realize that hockey fans want HD products and that most of us would be willing to pay a bit more for a high quality of product. I’d much rather be charged a bit more and have a DVD I want to watch over and over again, rather than a DVD that has a couple segments I like and a couple that are horrible (including one that is probably the worst clips segment I’ve ever seen assembled), all of which are in standard definition on DVD.

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