First game of the Claude Noel interim era on Thursday. I went — first win I’ve seen in person in its entirety since….um….several decades ago? (Actually, November 7 against Carolina. So just in the last decade) It was a pretty boring affair, as I recall (I went out carousing after the game, so most of my memories of it are seen through a thick haze of beer, karaoke, and cupcakes), not many good scoring chances by either team, neither team really dominating. The most exciting moment was probably Umberger’s empty net (!) goal scored from his stomach in the dying minutes to make it 2-0. Dallas rather quickly answered back to make a thrilling game of it for the last minute, but Mason held on. So, not exactly a 180-degree turnaround for the Jackets in the post-Hitchcock era, but a promising enough start, I suppose.
Buffalo tonight. I’m going, so I had some hopes that Snowmageddon might keep some of the drunken WNY hordes at bay. But this is Buffalo we’re talking about, so no. I think I need a drink already…
In other news, former Jacket O-K Tollefsen is now a Red Wing, so we’ll be seeing more of him (assuming he’s not hurt when the Jackets and Wings meet).
There’s also some sad news in the hockey world today. You’ll recall a few months ago I posted a link to John Buccigross’ excellent piece about the relationship between Leafs GM Brian Burke and his son Brendan, a student manager with the Miami hockey team who had come out publicly as gay in the macho world of hockey. Sadly, Brendan Burke and a friend were killed in a car accident in Indiana yesterday. Condolences to the families and the Miami hockey program.
We’re drifting into summer now, so I expect to be updating less often, at least until the draft and the UFA madness that follows. I realize that the playoffs are just heating up, but I’m the sort who, once my team is out of it, I still watch, but don’t really get into it that much. And anyway, there are plenty of blogs out there written by fans of teams who are actually still playing, so I’ll let them cover the playoffs. I will say that Game One of the Pens-Caps series yesterday did live up to the hype as far as being an entertaining game to watch. Although who would have thought the most exciting moment would come courtesy of a goalie?
In the ECHL playoffs, the Cincinnati Cyclones progressed to the Conference Finals with a series win over Elmira.
They have games Wednesday and Friday in Cincinnati. Those games would actually be next week, not this week. I’m going to Toronto that week and getting a little ahead of myself on the dates…
In other hockey goings on, the eminently forgettable 1986 film Touch and Go was on cable this morning. It stars pre-Batman Michael Keaton as a Chicago hockey star who falls for a single mother and her hoodlum son (who is played by Ajay Naidu, of Office Space fame!). Hockey is really pretty secondary, although there are a few action scenes, which are far from the best I’ve seen, but not utterly unbelievable. I’m pretty sure I watched this movie on cable way back when, although it was completely different from how I remembered it. I think I had it conflated in my head with V.I. Warshawski, another vaguely hockey connected film set in Chicago from the same era. And also with the Booker episode about hockey.
As far as the Jackets go, Jan Hejda and Alex Picard had surgery on their respective left wrists. And the team’s radio and TV broadcasters remain in limbo waiting to see if their contracts will be renewed. If it were up to me, I’d keep the radio guys — who have their quirks, but are beloved by the fans — and look for a new TV crew. But it’s not up to me, so we will see.
And of course, on Friday we heard the sad news of the passing of Ryan Salmons. If you’re not familiar with the Salmons story, read this, and keep a box of tissues handy. It was nice to read that Manny Malhotra and Jason Chimera went to visit Ryan towards the very end. Those are a couple of players I am often very frustrated with on the ice, but they have shown themselves to be class guys off of it. Kudos to them, and condolences to Ryan’s family.
As reported in the Dayton Business Journal:
The Dayton Bombers are ceasing operations and will not play next season, league officials confirmed Monday.
Brian McKenna, commissioner of the ECHL, the AA hockey league the Bombers have played in since 1990, said the Bombers and owner Costa Papista filed all necessary paperwork and notified the league it would not be playing in the 2009-2010 season. McKenna said the decision means the team will cease operations and will not be sold because there is nothing to sell.
Papista could not be reached for comment, but Erin Falcon, director of business operations for the local hockey team, confirmed the team would not play next year.
This is not shocking news, as the team has come close to the precipice on what seems like a yearly basis. Still, it’s sad to see another team in Ohio shut down, especially in a city with a reasonably long history of hockey.
And I assume this puts paid to the idea of a downtown hockey arena in Dayton for the Bombers. Too bad, as Dayton has always been a city of which I’m quite fond, but they’re struggling pretty badly there. They don’t need any more bad news.
Although I admit I will not miss the Nutter Center as a hockey venue, RIP Dayton Bombers.
St. Lawrence played Princeton yesterday in the ECAC third place game, with their season pretty much on the line. I reverted to superstitious sports fan idiocy and decided not to listen to the game on the internet so that I wasn’t jinxing the Saints. Walked down to Caribou Coffee on Grandview Ave. and read a book to avoid the temptation to dial the game in on my computer. That was all for nought, though. The game ended in a tie, which by every account I’ve seen, means the Saints are out of the running for an NCAA bid (the game ostensibly ended in a shootout win for SLU in terms of ECAC results, but the NCAA does not count shootout results as official, so the game is in the books as a tie). Disappointing end to a hot and cold season for SLU.
Oddly, though, Ohio State is back in contention, despite being bounced in the second round of the CCHA playoffs. The selection show is on ESPN2 at 11:30 this morning, so we’ll know for sure then.
In other news of interest:
Shocking news out of Russia today. I know it’s a cliche to say that something like this “puts things in perspective,” but really it does. Mike Peca’s suspension and even the continued struggles of Clint Malarchuk do pale in comparison to this news.
Condolences to his family, friends, and fans, and sorry we never got to see him play for the Rangers.
Paul Newman has died of cancer at the age of 83. Although he had a long and storied career, to hockey fans he will always be best remembered for the greatest hockey movie of all time. RIP
Sad news out of New Brunswick this afternoon. Condolences to his family and friends, and Canucks fans.
The Junior Blue Jackets are no more. This isn’t especially surprising, given that they struggled even to fill the Dispatch Ice Haus. What’s perhaps surprising is that they came back for a second season in Columbus at all, given what many people consider to be their genesis as a vanity project for Doug MacLean.
I’ll admit that I only made it to one game over the two seasons they were in existence. And I consider myself a pretty serious fan of hockey at all levels, so you can see what they were up against. With plentiful cheap tickets to the Jackets and hockey Buckeyes available, it just doesn’t seem like there was an untapped niche of hockey fans in Columbus for the Junior Jackets, even with all the free tickets on Craigslist, etc. Maybe in a decade or so…
Jackets’ majority owner passes away at the age of 84.
He’d been in poor health the past few years, so this isn’t utterly unexpected, although it was still a bit of a jolt to read on my BlackBerry in the checkout line at Giant Eagle just a few minutes ago. It also adds a bit more of a sad note to the Jackets’ failure to make the playoffs yet again this year, that Mr. McConnell never got to see his team play in the postseason.
I wasn’t in Columbus yet when the whole debate about the funding of the arena occurred. But certainly Mr. McConnell seemed to have high popularity among Jackets’ fans for bringing the team to Columbus, as evinced by the standing ovations at Nationwide Arena whenever he was shown on the jumbotron during a game. I know some Jackets’ fans felt like he held the purse strings too tight, especially this past season, and thus hampered the organization’s ability to put a winning organization on the ice, so the support wasn’t 100%. Although he did open up his wallet for Doug MacLean on more than a few ill advised occasions, so I hardly think we can accuse him of being an Ohioan Bill Wirtz. And given that the sports owners I was most familiar with prior to moving to Columbus were Marge Schott, Mike Brown, Bruce Firestone and Rod Bryden, Mr. Mac did always seem like a pretty good guy by comparison. So I’ll be recognizing his passing with some sadness.
The big question is what this means for the CBJ. I’ve heard from people who have dealt with both in business capacities that John P. McConnell, who I assume will take control of all his father’s holdings, is more of a hard-nosed businessman, and less inclined to suck up continued losses for the sake of civic pride. Which may or may not be true, but would seem to put some more pressure on the team to start winning next season and building the fanbase back up, lest relocation become something more than Jim Balsillie’s wet dream…
In any event, RIP Mr. Mac. I wish I could toast your memory this evening while watching your team fight towards the Stanley Cup, but a toast in front of the Rangers-Penguins game will have to suffice.
Nashville picked up a point today, so the last four games of the season are all academic for the Jackets. Just thought the two or three people still paying attention might want to know that.
The Jackets are playing right now, in Chicago. It’s on in the other room, but it just feels anti-climactic at this point, especially after watching that thrilling Miami-BC game. Which, sadly, Miami lost in OT, after dominating much of the play. But it was the sort of game about which one must say that if you could watch that and not get into it, you’ll just never be a hockey fan.
BC, Notre Dame, and Michigan are already set for the Frozen Four. The remaining spot will be filled by the winner of Wisconsin-North Dakota, which is going on now. 1-0 Wisco in the second.
Posted in CBJ, College, RIP