CHbLog – Inside Edge

Au revior France, Ni hao Beijing

Count ’em: the Euro 2008 Soccer Championship, Wimbledon, Giro de Italia and now the Tour de France. You could say fans are delirious. As my buddy William pointed out, it’s been a great year for Spain.

It’ll be interesting to see if it carries the momentum into the Olympics.

While this year’s Tour de France was the least predictable in, say, the past nine years (seven different riders wore the yellow jersey), two outta three names i listed for possible podium spots were top finishers. Second place overall in 2007, Australian Cadel Evans had to settle for second yet again while Spaniard Carlos Sastre, with his dominant CSC team, was Da Man.

Bobke! A couple Parting Notes on the Tour de France:

I wasn’t kidding about Bob Roll. In case you missed it, one morning during the Tour he said that cycling provides

a very potent allegory and when you get left by the Tribe, you have almost no chance of survival. That’s why bike racing reminds us of the primordial ooze that we crawled out of many, many years ago, from the cave to the modern era. It’s bike racing that reminds us what it means to be alive.

free your mind...I’m gonna need a stiff shot or three to belly-crawl my mind through that one.

Lanterne Rouge

Why, you ask, is the Lanterne Rouge significant in the Tour de France? Isn’t it all about the Maillot jaune? Yes and no. As the website points out, you still “couldn’t hang on his wheel for 30 seconds.”

You see the LR is the tactical wizard who finishes the race dead last. No easy feat, you can be sure. While on the same team as Evans, Wim Vansevenant managed nothing if not consistency, crossing the line last overall for the third year in a row.

On to the Olympics (see Phelps portrait all mixed in there with the Dalai Lama)!

Alas, the US Men’s Field Hockey team did not qualify for these Olympic Games.

And while this is the last year for baseball and softball competition, Ping-pong and Trampoline are here to stay.

Go Cheri Blauwet! Go World!

Tour de France – Paris in Sight

3,365 kilometers (2,091 miles) down, 196 kilometers (122 miles) to go.Tour de France - cycling through the sunflowers

It’s time you met Ryder Hesjedal. Appropriate name for a bike ryder, eh?

Hesjedal is on the American-sponsored Team Garmin-Chipotle (why yes that is argyle on their team kit).

While three of four Americans in the Tour are on his team, Hesjedal is the first Canadian to ride in the Tour since 1997. At the start today, he was 52nd overall and while no one remembers the name of the guy who finishes fifty-2nd, he’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to in his role on the team.

During Stage 16, Hesjedal was even mentioned by name during Versus’ coverage of the race. As the guys peddled over the Col de la Lombarde and the Col de la Bonnette – Europe’s highest pass at over 9,000 feet – Hesjedal kept pace with Lance Armstrong’s former teammate, American George Hincapie. Hesjedal’s teammates include Americans Christian Vande Velde (currently 6th overall), Danny Pate and our buddy Will Frischkorn.

Props to Hesjedal for the hard work and to Canadian fans waving huge, Canadian flags along the mountain route.

Separated at Birth?

If you’re looking for a Sydney Crosby in the cycling world, look no further than Mark Cavendish, winner of an impressive four stages in this year’s Tour. While he’s not touted to be the next, say, Lance Armstrong, he does have a similar, youthful look and mannerism as Crosby, and is predicted to be the next Big Thing in his cycling specialty: the sprint.

Some fantastic crashes occur during sprints, but I think Jonathan Vaughters, manger of Team Garmin-Chipotle (and former pro cyclist) was referring to mountain descents when he said, “If you want to know what it’s like to crash in a professional bike race, next time you’re in your car, strip down to your underwear and jump out the door at 50 mph.”

Thanks for the tip.

In other news, holy cow – is July a great month for sports or what? If you didn’t catch the Nadal-Federer final at Wimbledon, you missed one of the all-time most exciting events in sports. I always say: if you’re not big into spectating sports, just catch the premier events. That way, you see only the best-of-the-best in skill, response to pressure, and drama – just like the Olympics. This was by no means an exception.

Timbits

There’s a piece in a recent  issue of Wired magazine about this new ice vest that certain endurance athletes (marathon runners) wear before they race, to lower their body temperature. Vande Velde was seen pulling on an ice vest before starting the Stage 4 Time Trial, the event when cyclists go all out, one by one, over a shorter course to see who’s the fastest. VdV placed 8th out of 178, so it must’ve done him some good.

Here’s some pretty cool Tour road art.

Tour de France! (sorta)

Allez Y'all! Tour de France 08 Call me crazy.

I have unwavering faith that all you hockey fans out there have been inspired, or at least your curiosity piqued, to check out the Tour de France this year. Want more aggression in cycling, you say? You got it.

You have three freaking weeks of nearly full-day coverage to choose from for a morsel sampling, so there’s really no excuse. Hell, choose them all and call it a staycation.

Speaking of Corner Gas, the Canadian show has had episodes about hockey and curling of course, and now cycling, gob bless ’em. They referenced Le Tour on a recent episode about a spin class, where the instructor encouraged spinners to (i quote loosely), “Pretend you’re a crazy spectator on the side of the road on a stationary bike at the Tour de France!”

Wha? Those silly Canadians.

Note: Apologies to anyone who might be scarred for life after clicking on the “crazy” link above….

Sorta

Alas, time has expired with no change in the decision to refuse Alberto Contador (and Team Astana) the chance to defend his title at the Tour. Instead, listen for names like Cadel Evens, Alejandro Valverde and Carlos Sastre to take the podium.

No Tom Boonen in the sprint finishes, either.

Wide open field.

Tips

Hands down, the best way to watch any sport is with a little knowledge. Here’s a basic tutorial, Tour de France 101,  to get you started. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really tell you things to notice for pure entertainment. I’ll get to that….

Tip One: If you have a short attention span and/or minimal interest at this point, skip the reading on gruppettos and echelons. I didn’t have to learn about those until TdF 102 and neither should you.

Skim the stuff about how climbs are categorized, but it’s enough to know that “hors categorie” isn’t nearly as fun as it might sound. To summarize, it’s the most difficult climb/s of the day – the kind you and i would vomit on ’cause it’s steep and/or at kilometer #136. No more juice in the legs. All light-headed and silly.

Tip Two: Here’s an abbreviated list of what to take note of for the sake of entertainment:

Bob Roll. Anything that comes out of this man’s mouth is worth listening to, wacky though it may be. If you have a problem with Bob, you have a problem with yourself.

– Phil and Paul. Duets in sports broadcasting don’t get any better. They have British accents and witty idioms. If you’re an intellect or/and female, you can’t get enough of the accents.

– Otherwise, it’s a matter of what you’re into. If you like watching crashes, they’re there.

If you like watching men with quads the size of California redwoods pound the pedals and bump shoulders to the finish line (sprint), catch a long, flat day.

If you like watching crazed, naked, booze-infused fans run side-by-side with suffering cyclists, catch a “mountain finish” stage.

There’s plenty of stunning scenery. Cyclists occasionally take a “nature break” to enjoy the view as well (sometimes, they don’t even get off the bike).

Timbits

In case you hadn’t heard, Barry Melrose will share his coaching wisdom once again, this time with the Tampa Bay Lightening.

And for those of you familiar with cyclist Floyd Landis and his testosterone dealio, the ruling is in and it ain’t in his favor. I.E. Floyd doesn’t get to keep his 2006 Tour de France title.

Allez Y’all!

Say It Isn’t So!

Phooey. Mere days after he re-signs with the team, word comes that  Hartinger is off to play hockey with the Sterzing/Vipiteno Broncos next season. [From his link, scroll down to see him with a Broncos patch photoshopped onto the Scorps jersey.]

Hey hey! He’ll be playing in what’s apparently called the DiscoArena. Just a hunch, but I’m betting they play the BeeGees “Stayin’ Alive” when the Broncos goalie makes a great save with a one-goal lead.

And pro cycling sprinter phenom Tom Boonen was busted for blow.

Southern TirolBolzano Italy - 45 miles south of Vladimir Hartinger's new team

In all fairness to Harti, he deserves it. While rumor has it the Italian league is, for the most part, comparable to Double-A hockey, it does pay its players better.

I’m guestimating Sterzing is about 45 miles north of Bolzano. That whole region is amazingly beautiful. It’s very close to the Austrian border, so while technically the town is in Italy, the population speaks mostly German rather than Italian. Fun country, great scenery, and yummy food. The site linked above claims “Yoghurt Days” as one of the year’s “most important gastronomic events.” I’m dying of curiosity.

In case you’re not getting the information elsewhere, Scorpions head coach Randy Murphy isn’t having much of an off-season in the way of R&R. Busy recruiting, Murphy has re-signed D-man rocket-shooter Chris Robertson in close quartersAaron MacInnis – this year as a player/assistant coach. Chris Robertson has also signed for a third season. New guys include Bill McCreary and Russell Smith. Rookie Sylvain Michaud will play in net. Can’t remember seeing an exclusive announcement about goalie Andrew Martin, but the presser about Michaud said he’d work well with Martin and his name appears on the  updated roster, so presumably the team is set between the pipes.

Boon – outta here

As for Boonen, clearly he can afford that rock-n-roll lifestyle. An uberstar in his native Belgium, he presumably gets all the sex, drugs, and club invites a pro cyclist has the energy for. But it’s caught up with him. Alas, we won’t be seeing one of the world’s premier sprinters in the Tour de France.

Can he afford that?

I was watching him kick arse in a race a few weeks ago when the camera panned to the back of the pack, where other cyclists had hopped off their bikes to run up a steep and slippery, cobblestoned hill. I was imagining the guy in the back and what was going through his mind (speaking from experience – being in the back, that is). Of course, not every cyclist can be as strong as Boonen, even if they are pro. In contrast to the thoughts of the cyclist previously linked, on a day like this, that last guy might have been thinking:

Dammit. I hate being in the back! F*** this. I do everything right and there’s no way i’m ever gonna be as strong as Tom. He just blows right by me – and I didn’t even have a beer last night. This totally sucks! I’ve been training my ass off and he’s making it look frickin’ effortless. Screw it. I’m having that damn beer tonight.

Aaron MacInnis launches a rocket Around the bend

So… it’s a given y’all like beer but how ’bout wine? Anyone out there like a good glass of merlot with your spaghetti? Me too! I’m gonna ask the new GM of the Scorpions, Gary Gelinas, about wine country in Canada.

Wha?

Oh you heard me right. Gelinas says they make some great wine in the southwestern region of Canada, where he’s from. Crazy talk – I know!

Meanwhile, i’m counting down the days to Le Tour de France. 12 days and 8 hours to go….

Techno-curse

Get this: i’m mucking around in my computer files for the Randy Murphy interview i mentioned in the post below and it hits me. OMG! I’m gonna have to check my tapes!!! Remember those? The weird things encased in plastic that you had to manually spin the wheel of, to take up the slack? And if you didn’t, sometimes the thin, brown, endless fettuccini strip would get caught in the player and you couldn’t get it out without tearing it, or you tried in vain (no one ever succeeded) to untangle the twisted mass of a streamer, spitting out filthy words until you gave up and tossed the whole contraption out your car window? (Remember all those clusters of brown ribbon you’d pass on the street?)

Nowadays, i use a digital recorder for interviews but sure enough, Murphy’s interview is on a mini tape cassette. The sound is absolutely horrible and none of my headphone sets fit in the little hole on the recorder marked “ear.” I had to listen to the static-filled, barely audible interview repeatedly and with utmost intensity to understand what the heck was being said. I pray i heard it right.

Don’t say i never did anything for you.

Randy Murphy on Elmira Jackals ice Below is an excerpt of the conversation – the part relating to player contracts – with current Scorpions head coach and former player Murphy just before he moved from New Mexico to Elmira, NY in the summer of 2001:

IE: How does the change in the salary cap effect your decision to play for Elmira rather than New Mexico?

Murphy: “For myself, it was more like, the things that i was getting in the off-season couldn’t be done. So that was a big factor – having a guarantee in the off-season in Elmira.”

IE: There are a lot of things that go into the contract negotiation process other than salary, right?

Murphy: “Each guy’s contract is a personal thing. It’s what you’re used to i guess, since you’ve been playing pro. You have a few things set in your mind that you definitely want before you even consider talking to a team. One of the things i wanted to be able to go to Elmira, I was guaranteed, whereas the things here in New Mexico, i wasn’t. That was a major part of my decision [to move], aside from being closer to my family.

“Among the guys, in minor league sports, we don’t really talk about how much money we make. It’s pretty much just the coach or GM or whoever handles the contracts. It’s not like major league sports where they talk about it in the paper. It’s a weird situation. You kinda know what you make, you might know what another guy makes, but you don’t talk about it. We’re not playing for millions. It’s kind of a humble thing.”

Downshift – cycling

Alberto Contador, overall winner, 2008 Giro d'ItaliaSeems like as soon as it starts, it’s over. The Giro d’Italia has come to  an end and Spaniard Alberto Contador of team Astana won the race overall. Get this: Contador left the beach, tossed the tropical drink down the drain, shook the sand out of his swim trunks, and hopped a plane to Italy. Once there, he jumped on his bike, suffered like a dog with lethargy legs for the first week of the race, found his legs in the second week, barely held on to his lead for a few days and then kicked ass on the final day (an individual time trial) to win the whole freaking thing. How ya liking him now?

You see initially, team Astana wasn’t invited to the Giro due to doping allegations in the previous year. It’s an overhauled team though, including Contador, who won the Tour de France last year. Finally the organizing body caved and invited Astana to the Giro this year. Team Astana had to drop everything and show up in Italy for the start. Hence Contador’s beach-side location prior to the race. Now we wait to see if the organizers of the Tour de France change their minds and invite the defending champion and his team….

Get this: the original race route covered a total of 3,424 kilometers. At least one day, maybe two, was shortened by about 30 kilometers. i thought i heard a total number that was 2,000+ kilometers after all was said and done, but i’m sure that number was still closer to 3,000 than 2,000. Still if we simply convert 2,000 kilos to miles we get about 1,242. I’m guessing i total a little less than that on my road bike and maybe about the same if i also add in mountain biking miles – in a season. I can only assume the pros wear a more expensive chamois than i do.

And if you’re wondering what invades the mind of a cyclist as he spins the pedals and stares at the backside of the rider in front of him for a few hours in a day, check this pro cyclist’s journal. He rides for the new Team Slipstream-Chipotle (yummy) and his name is Will Frischkorn.

Now We’re Talkin’

Got to see my first ever player signing! It was a madhouse. Just like a draft or something, with a few hundred people and tons of media. I had to give someone important a surprise, hard shove from behind just to get a good seat (sorry Grapes).

For real though, Scorpions captain Vladimir Hartinger was introduced, seated, and presented his contract. He signed his name, slipped into a Scorpions jersey and addressed the crowd. It looked just like a tee-tiny NHL draft event.

So there it is – Hartinger is the first player to (re)sign with the Scorpions for the 2008-09 season. Good news for the New Mexico team and fans as well. Awesome offensive defenseman and great guy.

One of the things Vladi told the crowd is that, “The team has given me everything i’ve ever asked for.” Made me remember that i interviewed first year Scorps coach Randy Murphy while he was a player, just before he left for that stint in Elmira. Now’s my chance to use that interview to ‘splain a little about what “everything i ask for” means.

You see, in the Double-A minors, salaries aren’t all that. So players can actually negotiate for other various things, like visits home for Christmas and such. I’ll dig up that interview and post it next time around.

2008 CHL Defenseman of the Year, Vladimir Hartinger All this talk about Hartinger makes me wonder if you’re thinking what i think you’re thinking. Like, if i bumped into Vladi, did i finally do an interview or what?!

Why yes i did! Full disclosure: i actually told him i’d look at my original list of questions and email him a few, then save the rest for a longer interview when the new season kicks up. But just to tide you over until then, making good on what you surely thought was a bogus promise, at long last (drum roll please), here’s a brief Q&A with a CHL/Scorpions superduperstar defenseman!

[Don’t be confused. IE stands for Inside Edge, the official name of this blog.]

IE: You had such a great season. Any idea what made a difference –  just getting better with age?
Hartinger: “The coaching of Randy Murphy has had a big impact on my game – and also getting better with age.”

IE: Which was your favorite CHL team to play this past season? Least favorite team? Why?

Hartinger: “My favorite team was Arizona. I believe I had a total of 28 points in 16 games against them.”

“Least favorite would be Laredo. They play very hard and their forwards finish all their checks.”

IE: What’s your prediction for the NHL playoffs? Which team do you want to win the Cup?

Hartinger: “I think Detroit will win. I also cheer for them. They have a really good team. Great forwards, really good D-men and good goaltending in Osgood.”

IE: Any big summer plans so far?

Hartinger: “I’m really looking forward to seeing my family. I have not been able to visit them in the past 4 years. Also, my brother’s wedding will be a lot of fun.”

Crossover

On to hockey/cycling… Vladi is from Sternberk in the Czech Republic. I mentioned to him that in the research i’d done for the interview, i noticed cycling is pretty popular in that area. He shared that his dad had a bicycle shop (or two?) when Vladi was a kid. And get this:

Vladi knows what the Giro d’Italia is – so you have no excuse not to!

Of course, he’s from somewhere other than the US. Vladi says when he was a kid, they always had the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France bike races on TV and his family would watch.

Not to leave you hanging with your newfound love of cycling – here’s some Giro reading.

Timbits

Scorpions sparkplug Konrad Reeder will be playing in Europe for the upcoming season. That’s the Frederikshavn White Hawks of the Danish Hockey League, if you wanna track his success. NM Fans are gonna miss him.

Real Men Wear Pink

Arizona in 4 eh? Holy Moly. (That’s what my buddy from Texas says. Of course, she pronounces it Howl-lee Mowl-lee!)

Whoda thunk? Scorpions head coach Randy Murphy, whose team ended its season against the Dogs, knew what Arizona had going for it. Murphy says he predicted AZ in 6. As far as i know, that’s about as close a guess of the outcome as anyone came.

So we’re on to the NHL playoffs. I think most of us are predicting the Red Wings have it in the bag. Murphy, who was busy guest bartending for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network at a local Irish Pub in Albuquerque this past Saturday, is predicting as much, but said he’d like to see Pittsburgh win the Cup.

Murphy says, “It would make a good story, after last season [rebounded from a gawdawful season the year before to make it to the playoffs, but eliminated in the first round; had to cope with the uncertainty surrounding the possible sale and relocation of the team]. It’d be fun, since they’re such a young team. And their stars are playing so well.”

That’s what i’m sayin’.

I know – i keep talking about a transition to cycling but i want it to be intriguing, so here’s a little piece about a pro cyclist who used to be a hockey player. Really! I’m always saying cycling is the perfect cross-training sport for hockey players. Good for the knees.

Grab your seats kiddos – here we go…!

For those of you who haven’t checked the Events list on my website, the Giro d’Italia is in full swing. It’s the first of the three European Grand Tours: they last three weeks (stage races, rather than a single day) and tour a country. Even those of you living in caves have heard of the Tour de France, right? The Giro is just like the Tour, but it travels through Italy instead of France. The third Grand Tour is the Vuelta a Espana, which races through Spain in September.

Without even trying, you’ve just learned to say “Tour of [insert Country]” in three languages!

Why do i care about all this, you ask? Why does anyone care about a sports event that involves extreme physical challenge, endurance, pain, victory, beautiful countryside, wicked crashes – for you people who can’t get enough of that stuff, and something completely different from the usual team sports dynamics. Hello.

So far, a significant factor of this year’s Giro is that an American, Christian Vande Velde, wore the leader’s (pink) jersey (just like the yellow one of the Tour de France) for only the second time in the history of the race.

The last time was way, way back, in the 20th Century (1988).

Day 2 leader Franco Pellizotti, Giro d'Italia 2008Unfortunately, Vande Velde lost his lead the following day by one second in a sprint for the finish line at the end of 207 km (a whopping 128 US miles – sitting on a bike). Italian Franco Pellizotti is your new man in pink.

Side note: for those of you already jonesing, if you click on the Vande Velde link above, there’s an (albeit sad) reference to (wait for it…) ice hockey!!!

Another Giro tidbit of interest for Americans is that American Time Trial Champion, Dave Zabriskie, crashed out on the second day (Sunday). Apparently, he tangled with a railroad crossing gate or some such thing, and fractured a vertebrae. It’s impossible to see those obstacles with your nose on the wheel of the guy in front of you.

Poor dude is gonna suffer like labor every time he sneezes or coughs for the next couple weeks. Big shame. Z-Dog is one of the riotous characters in cycling who you wanna listen to, unless you’ve decided the porn stache and soul patch say it all…. On his website, be sure to check out Zabriskie’s Point.

Final Countdown

Phew! That was a close one. Thank goodness i switched to “pres”uming, regarding the Arizona vs. Laredo series. (See previous post) Guess that makes a “pres” outta “u” and “me.” Wha?

Though i was wrong, i can’t say i’m surprised. A sizable bird once told me that Arizona would be the new Colaredo (get it?).

I swear last night I had a dream that i passed Albuquerque Journal writer James Yodice as i was rushing to leave the building, and threw out to him, “You said Colorado in 6, right? Sounds good to me.” Checking back to Rajan’s blog, sure as shootin’ i’d read (but not consciously remembered) that Yodice predicted Colorado in 6.

But it still wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Arizona took it all. Sooner or later, someone different has to. I still wish it was someone really different. More dreaming….

I’m gonna say it and you can’t stop me: a big congrats to CHL referees Croft, Floru and Lemelin, not to mention the four linesmen, for being chosen to work the final games. May their playoff experiences be career-enhancing.

Switching Gears

I’ve mentioned i’ll be covering a little bit of cycling once the hockey season is over. In preparation for the transition, all you folks who just dropped your bite of hoagie in your lap – “Cycling?!” – need to check out this whopper of a Spring Classic: during the Paris-Roubaix race, pro cyclists ride (somewhat modified) road bikes over sections of cobblestones that can only be described as brutal, the vibrations of which make your eye balls spin like the 1960s and your bum feel like a mixed drink – shaken, not stirred. If it rains, odds are you’ll be ass over elbows at least once before you hit the finish which, by the way, is in a velodrome. Either way, it’s crashes, flat tires, broken wheels, head winds….

Give Blood. Ride Roubaix. Forget the glowing glory of the Stanley Cup, the winner of this race gets, that’s right, a huge freaking rock as a trophy (you can tell by the way they handle it, it’s real). Yeah! That’s what i’m talkin’ ’bout!

Conference Finals Playoff Notes

Tonight begins the series between Laredo and Arizona. Note to Sundogs: Coach Rosko and CHL MVP Jeff Bes were spotted at the Arizona vs. New Mexico game taking notes. I’m pretty much assuming Laredo will win the series, though head-to-head in the regular season, Arizona and Laredo are tight. Might save myself some potential embarrassment by presuming Laredo will win….

Doesn’t it seem like playoff beards are less of a norm these days? Maybe with expansion teams and entire leagues located in hot and humid cities, they just aren’t as practical this time of year as, say, cutting off some hair.

Well, it’s been disclosed – what i’ve known for a couple weeks now: Scorps blueliner and CHL Defenseman of the Year, Vladimir Hartinger, has lingering bronchial issues. He missed the two weekend home games against Arizona, including that messy, messy one. (He did make the haul to AZ for the deciding Game 6.) Not sure if he’ll want to do an interview now that the Scorpions are out of the playoffs, but if he does, i’ll be sure to ask him the good stuff – entertaining any time of year. Otherwise, here’s hoping he gets well soon. The weather’s just too good to be feeling bad!

Fans wanna know – what do players (and fans alike) do for fun the weekend following playoff elimination? Catch a Triple-A baseball game! Scorpions Aaron MacInnis and Craig Macdonald were spotted Sunday, along with head coach Randy Murphy, at the Albuquerque Isotopes day game. My unoriginal guess was they’d be golfing, but there are those pesky spring winds and 30pmh gusts in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. Saw at least six or seven other familiar, hockey faces there.

Anyone but me hoping to see Texas emerge out of the North – just for something different? Of course, it’s gonna take some fast fixin’ in the least, but they’re not in Colorado for the next couple games. Game 3 on Wednesday is a biggie.

Hello… is this thing on?

Nothing can injure a column/blog like waiting over a month to post something new, eh? I swear I’ve been plotting and scheming to get an interview with Mr. Outstanding Defenseman. Even have good pics to go with it. Let’s just say the man has a lot on his plate – like the playoffs now – but he swears we’ll chat in the next week or two. Once we do, I’ll post as soon as a perfectionist can post.

In the meantime, how frustrating must it be for the the Northwest Division this season, with only one of five teams making the playoffs (Eagles) while all four teams in the Northeast made it to Round One?

If you get a chance to see the Scorpions in a playoff game, keep your eye out for #20, rookie Mitch Stephens. No offense, but early in the season, the 6’2″ Center looked a bit like he was just growing into his lanky form. Now that he’s adjusted, he’s looking like he’s been krafty Konrad lurks taking tips from the krafty Konrad Reeder, or maybe Datsyuk. At the conclusion of the season and into the playoffs, Stephens has been experimenting with a few dipsy-doodle, finesse stickhandling moves while still successfully contributing offense. He just might emerge as a real show-stealer next season….

And I meant to keep track of which teams play to the wildly popular “Kiss Cam” arena entertainment. Sure it’s silly, but the fans love it and I’m wondering if it’s indicative of which teams have a general sense of humor and which teams tend to take themselves too seriously – like Arizona, for example (by the way, that was six T-words in a row). On that note, props to Amarillo for humoring the fans, and for keeping it real in its re-growth period following the departures of Derek Hahn, Mark DeSantis, Shawn Degagne and Joe Ferras (look for Ferras in Rapid City come the 2008-09 season). Hopefully Rookie of the Year David Nimmo will return to the Gorillas, as well as All-Rookie Team member and defenseman Shaun Arvai.

Say – it really happens! A CHL presser on 2/29 announced that,

A couple of former CHL players have made their NHL debuts this season with goaltender Tyler Wieman (Colorado) playing 15 minutes in a game for the Colorado Avalanche earlier this season and former San Angelo Saint forward Chris Minard playing four games with the Pittsburgh Penguins recording his first NHL assist on February 26th.”

How cool is that? I’m guessing that as a matter of numbers, it’s most difficult for an offenseman to get a shot at moving up, and most likely for a goaltender – though how terrifying must that be for a goalie? Exciting of course, but intimidating I’m sure.

Happy Birthday (April 2) to Shaun Peet.

Guess that’s all for today, folks. Thanks for playing.