2017 Stanley Cup – round one – part two

Was last night a crazy hockey night or what?!? Four games, four overtimes. And all but one ended the way I wanted it to, but the one that didn’t was so tragic it was hard to be happy about all the others. I know. Woe is me.

I would happily torch this entire bracket to be wrong about a few things…

Yesterday, I shared my thoughts and feelings on the four NHL playoff match-ups that had already played game three in their best-of-seven first round series. Then I watched hockey all night long so that I could write about the remaining four series that caught up in their own series. Phew.

calgary flames vs anaheim ducks

Anaheim leads 3-0
Who I took: Calgary in 7

Let me start by acknowledging that, yes, I don’t know them off the ice and I would probably think they were perfectly fine if I met them in real life, but boy do I dislike the Ducks. Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Corey Perry and the man who is like sand in a bathing suit to me, Ryan Getzlaf to name just a few. The only Duck I actually like is Antoine Vermette, but that is probably just a hangover from his days in Arizona and will go away sometime very soon (and especially if their playoff run carries on the way it has started…) and John Gibson showed me a side that I actually didn’t mind. I know the CBC crew didn’t like his response to getting chased from the net, but I did.

Let me also say that I have zero tolerance for complaining about refereeing. I think it’s the cheapest and ugliest way to absolve responsibility for losing. Want to beat the referees? Put the puck in the net. If you consistently do that, THEY CAN’T STOP YOU. However, I have seen a few instances in this series when I thought the refs weren’t really living their best ref lives. And it went mostly in the favour of Anaheim. I’m just saying.

And I like the Flames. I really do. I have a soft spot for their young and talented, hard-working group. They seem to find a way to (sometimes) make wine out of water. Just not in the first couple of games of this series. Last night was a different story and they came out firing, but they just couldn’t keep up the pace. The Ducks caught them and then won in OT. I was pretty sad when I saw the post-game commentary because I was feeling pretty proud of this squad. They played their best hockey of the series so far and they came up short.

What I’ve loved: Really physical, bang and crash hockey.

Also, the Flames are saying all the right things.

“Just kind of live in the moment. Don’t think about yesterday or tomorrow. Live for today. Any mentor I’ve had has said the same thing: You can’t control everything. So control what you can, come with a smile on your face and do what you’ve prepared your whole life for.” – Goaltender Brian Elliott

What I’ve not loved: The talk has counted the Flames out since day one. I can’t see this series going much longer and my prediction is still technically possible…

boston bruins VS ottawa senators

Ottawa leads 2-1
Who I took: 
Ottawa in 5

You want to talk about jerky fans? (Okay, maybe YOU don’t, but I did yesterday. Twice.) Bruins fans take the cake. It’s so easy to want them to lose when you listen to the people who want them to not lose. Vancouver is really sensitive about Boston because of the whole 2011 Stanley Cup series. That doesn’t apply to me as a non-Canuck fan, of course, but, boy, do I get it.

I’ve been trying to like Ottawa more. They’ve always been a club that, on paper, I should like. Then they traded for my favourite player. Then they started sitting him. It’s been a roller coaster. In the end, I just don’t really care that much. Other than the wanting the Bruins to lose.

But, let me profess that I like Brad Marchand.

Things I’ve loved: The Clarke MacArthur returns to the game storyline. Tears of joy.

Things I’ve not loved: My indifference to this series.

nashville predators VS chicago blackhawks

Nashville leads 3-0
Who I took: 
Chicago in 6

As you can see on my bracket up top. I expected Chicago to go (almost) all the way. But I support the hockey hero from my hometown (he’s from Port Moody, not Vancouver, thankyouverymuch) and that makes me a Preds semi-fan. I also like the Preds because I think their “Keep the Red Out” campaign from a few years ago is genius. Prompted by this exact playoff match-up, the Predators put a block on out of state credit cards purchasing tickets to their games at Bridgestone Arena. They wanted to Grow the Gold in their home arena and keep people traveling with the visiting team away. I love it. As someone who has seen visiting fans obnoxiously take over a host arena (I see you Leafs fans in Buffalo, Oilers fans in Arizona and pretty much every team that visits Vancouver’s fans) and hated it, I really liked their efforts. Have they worked? I’m not sure. (And my opinion will probably change when I one day try to catch a game there.)

I wasn’t the only person to predict that the Blackhawks would be there. In the weeks leading up to the playoffs, I heard people predict Chicago representing the west in the Stanley Cup more often than I heard any other team. Back in February, they and the Washington Capitals were the favourites.

The Predators shut the Blackhawks out in the first two games. In game three last night, they spotted them two goals and still came out on top in OT.

Things I’ve loved: The underdog story.

Things I’ve not loved: Almost no coverage for this series. I guess that’s what happens when five Canadian teams make the playoffs.

toronto maple leafs VS washington capitals

Toronto leads 2-1
Who I took: Pittsburgh in 7

All of my own feelings about hockey aside, THIS is the series of the season in our house. You see, if you weren’t already aware (and you clearly don’t know Kevin if that’s the case) I am engaged to  and live with a lifelong Maple Leafs fan. And if you weren’t already aware, it’s been a long road for Maple Leafs fans. I’m not a Leafs fan necessarily, but I do have a soft spot for them. (And I’m totally baffled by the west coast OBSESSION with them. Seriously, many Canuck fans are more preoccupied with disliking them than they are with liking their own non-playoff squad – sorry, had to. I can’t believe it took me this long!)

I would like to pause and say this: no matter what happens in this series, this season has been a huge success for these young Leafs. They weren’t even planning on making the playoffs, you guys. Getting there and getting two wins is a huge victory.

Toronto has won the last two games in sudden death OT and it has been incredibly exciting. And totally nerve-wracking. My usually calm and laid back partner has turned into a total stress case.

I was thinking that I don’t really have any feelings about the Capitals, but then I saw an intermission interview and remembered that I LOVE TJ OSHIE. My other feeling for the Capitals is that I hate all the hate they’re getting. Everyone is all, “Haha! Presidents’ Cup trophy winners can’t win in the playoffs AGAIN.” Which is lame. But Don Cherry has a point about Evgeny Kuznetsov. Maybe he’s got some karma to play through.

This series is far from over and could very well go to seven nail-biting games.

Things I’ve loved: The Leafs winning brings a very celebratory tone to our home. I like that.

Things I’ve not loved: Well, nothing really. Go Leafs go!

Some of these series will start wrapping up soon. When they do, I’ll be back with some thoughts on the second round.

What have you thought of round one so far? Is your bracket/prediction still intact?

2017 Stanley Cup – round one – part one

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a sports person. I’m not one who professes to watch any sport because there are sports you couldn’t pay me to watch – golf, soccer, and I am totally not into the Olympics. Hockey and football are mostly my jam – the Atlanta Falcons are my football team and I have a few hockey teams. I know, I know, this bugs the crap out of people, but it’s true. I mostly classify NHL teams into three categories: love/hate/indifferent. Examples: Sharks, Blue Jackets, Predators, Maple Leafs/Canadiens, Bruins, Penguins, Ducks/Canucks, Jets, Lighting, Stars. (There are more in the indifferent category than in either of the other two.)

A collage of Canucks memories from the 2016/17 season

It struck me as kind of funny that I almost never write about sports here since we do spend a significant amount of time watching and keeping up with them. Now that the Stanley Cup playoffs are underway, I’ve had a lot of thoughts and opinions to get out of my head and I couldn’t resist. Here’s my totally unqualified breakdown of four of the eight first round series as teams embark on their road to The Cup. These are the series that are three games in already. Stay tuned for a post about the other four series tomorrow.

Just because it’s my bracket doesn’t mean I have to like it

Columbus Blue Jackets vs Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh leads 3-0
Who I took: Pittsburgh in 7

This is a real love/hate series for me in that I love #CBJ and I hate the Pens. Every April, my playoffs are basically hoping and praying that the day comes quickly when we no longer have to listen to constant  and inane commentary on Sid and that it happens before he is hoisting the Cup wearing a totally inappropriate MVP badge. Better luck this year…

I definitely went into this series hoping that the Blue Jackets would win a game or three. They’ve been such a wild card team this year. I was hoping they’d be young and inexperienced enough to come in firing without a care for what the critics were saying. They’ve been playing a very physical game and I like seeing that, but I’ve downgraded my expectations. They have everything to be proud of (a sixteen-game win streak is not too shabby!), but they just don’t have what it would take to get past the champs. (And losing Zach Werenski doesn’t help.) I’m still hoping they can steal a game just because they’ve worked really hard this season and they deserve it.

Things I’ve loved: Watching Tortorella’s dressing room speeches.

“It makes you sick just because you see him try to come back out and his eyes swollen up between the third and overtime and you know he wants to come back out, and what guy comes back out in that situation?” Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said. “I said to him, ‘I’m proud to be your teammate.’

Things I’ve not loved: Many Penguins fans have shown that they are less than gracious winners. Nothing turns me off a team more than a fan base composed primarily of jerks.

new york rangers vs montreal canadiens

Montreal leads 2-1
Who I took: New York in 6

As interested as I am in the Columbus-Pittsburgh series, I’m equally disinterested in this series. I don’t like either of these teams so watching them is kind of a snorefest. All that said, one of the few predictions I made prior to the playoffs starting was that this series would be the real championship series. As happens with hockey, you sometimes get match-ups early on that are so gritty and intense, they end up being the kind of battles you’d wish for in the finals. (Think San Jose vs LA in 2014 – or any year, really.) I thought this could be one of those – and I’m not convinced yet that it won’t be. These teams are playing fast and highly skilled hockey that is punctuated by world class goaltending.

I haven’t watched enough to love or not love anything, really. I’ll make a better effort on Tuesday. I promise.

st louis blues VS Minnesota wild

St Louis leads 3-0
Who I took: Minnesota in 6

I’ll level with you: when it came to the playoff race and clinching and match-ups and getting a grip on what the post-season would look like, I didn’t even know that the Blues were in. I’d had high hopes for them to start the season, but every time I heard about them, it seemed they were struggling. Minnesota, on the other hand, they seemed to always exceed expectations

These two teams are quite evenly matched and that should make for a good series. I didn’t foresee it going the way it has with Minnesota still looking for their first postseason win and their backs firmly up against the wall going into game four. I would like to add that the series score betrays the quality of the hockey they are playing and the performance of the Wild.

Things I’ve loved: Joel Edmundson – he had three goals in 69 games this season and now has two in three playoff games including the game winner in OT of game one. Talk about clutch.

Things I’ve not loved: The Wild being down 3-0. I’m not a superfan or anything, but it’s a tough skip of the puck for them to be in in this position. Again, they’re better than that. And poor Devan Dubnyk. He’s had to fight so hard to get where he is. It would be a shame for them to go out quickly.

edmonton oilers VS san jose sharks

Edmonton leads 2-1
Who I took: San Jose in 6

This series. If people had to pick the series that mattered most to me, they would say it was this one. The Sharks are the closest thing to a favourite team that I have, though that is waning somewhat since they traded my favourite player earlier this year. But, I do still like them and they have unfinished business from last year’s Cup finals. Edmonton is not a team I like, though they have risen in my books with the removal of Taylor Hall and the addition of Zach Kassian. Still, their fans aren’t the most fun (MOSTLY. I have a couple of friends who are good, decent hockey supporters) and that makes it easier to cheer against them. Interestingly, while the Sharks are the most promising of the two playoff teams I like the most, I honestly wouldn’t hate it (okay, at first I probably would, but I’d get over it quickly) if the Oilers took it. It wouldn’t be a surprise for this series goes the full seven game distance, but Edmonton does have the momentum with their wins coming in games two and three.

Things I’ve loved: Zach Kassian coming to play. He’s been through a lot these past couple of years and I think he is showing that he has grown from it. Curse the Habs for essentially throwing him away and kudos to the Oilers for giving him another shot.

Things I’ve not loved: Low scoring. There is plenty of firepower on both sides so I’d like see more goals. They’ve combined for eight goals in total and the Sharks haven’t scored since game one.

Tonight, there are four games on the calendar, all game three in their respective series:

  • Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs – series tied 1-1
  • Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins – series tied 1-1
  • Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators – Preds lead 2-0
  • Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames – Ducks lead 2-0

More on hockey and my thoughts on the remaining four match-ups tomorrow.

Who is your favourite NHL team? What are your predictions for the first round?

Discover Vancouver: Rogers Arena

Here’s another thing we like to do: explore our town. For Julie‘s birthday, she wanted to check out the home of her beloved Vancouver Canucks. So that’s what we did.

We arrived at Rogers Arena just in time for the first tour of the day and we were the only ones there. Bonus! We got registered up at the front desk quickly, were given lanyards with behind the scenes passes and we were ready to go!

We left the team store and promptly got a rundown of some of the history of the building and what to expect from the tour. Since it wasn’t a game day, the arena was relatively quiet, though there was some filming going on so we did see a few people including players and coaches on the benches and on the ice. We were allowed to take pictures of and with everything we saw (including any players we might encounter), but were asked not to bother said players since they were, after all, at work.

We headed up to the 300 level to check out the Canucks dressing room display which includes memorabilia from the four Canucks whose jerseys have been retired and Trevor Linden’s actual dressing room stall from before the rooms were renovated in 2009. (He wore the same shoes to every single game throughout his career. Like, exact same pair. And they’re in that stall still. Gross.)

Next up, we headed to the Olympic display where Roberto Luongo waves the Canadian flag after Sidney Crosby’s Golden Goal at the 2010 Olympics. The wall features a replica of Luongo’s mask, his actual stick and a few other tokens from both the men’s and women’s tournaments that year.

When we finished there, we took the elevator up to the 500 level which houses spectator lounges including Club 500 – a ticketed area that offers several stations of various foods, bars and very loungeable seating, the press areas and media booths (no surprise that home is much comfier than visitors), the Canucks Alumni suite. From high up in the rafters, we got an impeccable look at the banners, a different angle on the jumbotron and a bird’s eye view of the ice.

From the top, we went all the way down to the bottom where we got to walk through the players’ entrance to the arena and in and around the dressing rooms. Because there were players in the arena, we weren’t allowed to go into the Canucks dressing room, but we did get to walk through the visitors’. (It smelled like watermelon gum.)

For those of you who don’t know or may not remember, when Rogers Arena was built, the Canucks weren’t the only professional team in town. One of the more interesting parts of the tour for me was when we walked through the area where the Vancouver Grizzlies of the NBA used to be housed. The remnants of having a basketball team in town is that, still, sixteen years later, there are way taller than normal doors in certain areas of the arena. Here’s 5’10.5″ me underneath a chin-up bar in the midst of them. If you sit on one of the stalls in the former Grizzlies dressing room, your feet still out like a child’s.

After checking out all there was to see at ice level, we headed back up an elevator and to the 100 level before finishing off the tour. All in all, we spent about an hour and a half exploring the arena and I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested. Taking the tour also gets you a special 10% discount in the Canucks store on the same day.

Want to check out Rogers Arena? It’s $12 per adult ($6 per child over four, $8 per senior) and reservations are not required. For more information, check out their tours page.

To check out more photos from our tour, go to my album on Facebook. (Like my page while you’re there!)

The morning after & when decluttering sucks

There is a reason I never chirp other people and their teams. That conscious decision was justified last night when nothing but a couple of messages of condolences came my way over the airwaves. With the exception of one total asshole, it made me feel a lot better about the people I choose to have in my life.

Our Super Bowl correspondent sent texts, videos, photos & commentary from this exact spot

There are sixty minutes to play in a football game. The Falcons were powerhouses for only thirty of them. The Patriots took over the other thirty. At the end of the day, Tom Brady gets the win and nobody cares how much effort he put(s) into making America great again. But it is, after all, a sport and he needs but to be a good quarterback – no need to be a good person. As a Falcons fan it was interesting to note the praise that Aikman and Buck were able to turn on once the comeback had been started and one man led a team to victory from a 28-3 deficit. Disappointing that the man who led a team to a 28-3 lead and was voted Offensive Player of the Year and league MVP got none. I don’t want to sound like a sore loser, but they certainly did seem to be much more comfortable once the opportunity to jerk off to Tom Brady arose. Just sayin.

I never thought that game would be easy. And I am never satisfied halfway through a game. Tom Brady IS a great QB. The New England Patriots ARE a great team. Bill Belichick IS a great coach. That Julian Edelman catch WAS out of this world.

In the end they deserved it.

As I mentioned yesterday, people in America overwhelmingly wanted the Falcons to win. Friends tweeted and texted me that they were at parties or bars where everyone – in some cases literally every single person – was cheering for Atlanta. Sadly, that doesn’t put any points on the board. It does, however, make many of the things said in this piece very, very true: NOBODY is happy for the Patriots.

It was tragic and it was sad. I actually cried – real tears – not immediately after the game, but maybe an hour or so later.

We were in the perfect company. With another couple surrounded by amazing food. Once things started to spiral, the silliness ended, the joking was pushed aside, the room got quiet.

And the food! Chips and dip, mini pizzas, veggie chili, crudités, nine layer dip, fruit platter, barbecues hot dogs. This was literally my favourite meal ever. They even sent us home with leftovers. And icy squares. Which I ate for breakfast today. Whatever.

My carrot cake was fine, but I hardly tasted it. It just sat on the plate in my hand as I took a forkful every couple of minutes. We ate it post-game and now it just feels like a bad luck charm so I’ll probably never make it again, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. (Everyone else said it was great. Outstanding was Kevin’s word for it.)

I took the recipe from Canadian Living and it can be found here. It’s super easy.

•••

Now. I’m going to talk about something else now. Decluttering. I’ve been sharing my daily Minimalism Game posts on Instagram and adding to an album that I created on Facebook. Lots of stuff is on its way out the door and it’s been a good practice overall.

I mentioned yesterday that there aren’t a ton of gains to be had from my closet because I practice going through it frequently and even assessing each piece of clothing as I handle it for washing (okay, sometimes) and getting rid of it on the spot if I haven’t worn it, don’t feel comfortable in it, or if it doesn’t “spark joy” or whatever. My closet it where I am most efficient at keeping and getting rid of things appropriately.

Or so it seemed.

Ironically, I realized this week, my closet is the only place from which I also feel regret for having lost things. In today’s context, I’m referring to fan gear.

Over the years, I’ve bought and received tons of Falcons shirts, jerseys, dresses (yup, dresses!), hoodies, tank tops, toques, hats, scarves, you get my drift.

Leading into the Super Bowl, I had none of it. It seems that over time almost all of it had been decluttered and sent to the streets. Likely because I hadn’t worn it in a certain amount of time or because it was somehow rendered useless to me. This weekend I felt deep regret at having lost all of that and it made me sad to reflect on the catalogue of things I’d owned and memories of the people who’d given them to me or the places I’d picked them up. I would have worn all of it yesterday, damn it. ALL OF IT.

While I’m learning that there is pleasure in getting rid of things, I’m also learning that in some cases that shouldn’t be done in haste. I don’t know what the balance is, but I’m on the case.

•••

So, yeah, we were supposed to still be in Washington today. Kevin was supposed to be going to WWE RAW tonight. Instead, we are sleeping late, cleaning the apartment and starting to pack up in preparation for the move.

Sigh.

A Super Bowl like no other

It’s Super Bowl Sunday and I couldn’t sleep.

For the first time in my tenure, my team is in the Super Bowl. It’s one of only a few times that one of *my* teams was in the championship. In fact, it’s the third after the Dallas Stars in 1999 (that was the right crease call) and the San Jose Sharks last June. I’m .500 on championships so no matter which way things go today, the tie will be broken.

MY TEAM IS IN THE SUPER BOWL

It’s been a long road and this team and I have been through a lot. A few weeks ago, I read through the Atlanta Falcons’ Wikipedia page and it was a very interesting experience I would recommend to any sports fan. There are plenty of parts of it that I remember, but while I remembered, I’d also, in a way, forgotten.

Several lifetimes ago

When you refer to the Falcons, people often think of Michael Vick (though never in a good way) and he is at the centre of a lot of the things I remember. I loved his explosive play, I loved the seconds after the ball was snapped when you could see him looking, see him looking and actually see the decision point before he took off. He was the first NFL quarterback to rush for 1000 yards. Game in and game out, he was always exciting to watch and for a relatively new fan like me, he was a game changer when it came to selling the sport.

(I just read his letter on The Player’s Tribune from a few days ago. It talks about the experience of being “on the come-up in Atlanta” and his everlasting love for the city.)

My earliest memory of being a Falcons fan dates back to 2002-ish.

Apparently, Falcons fans have a bad rap. I wouldn’t know since I’ve only ever met two of them. That happened outside the game vs the New Orleans Saints in San Antonio, Texas while the Superdome was being repaired after Hurricane Katrina. I talked to a couple of older season ticket holders who’d made the trip from Atlanta by car. The woman gave me a Falcons rally towel.

I should have been in Vancouver, Washington today. When that fell through, I even had a REAL invitation to go to Houston, Texas (where Super Bowl LI is being played!) for the weekend. Instead, I’ll be tuning in from Burnaby, BC.

But it’ll still be fun. I’m having dinner (veggie chili and barbecued veggie dogs!!) made for me (thanks, Seahawks!) and I have to bring carrot cake (I took a pity bet after my counterpart got pouty) and it’s going to be great time.

Still, I should be in Vancouver. Or at the very least, Houston.

I have a friend on location at the Super Bowl today. She promises she will be reporting back with photos and commentary from the game. That’s kind of fun because it makes me feel that much closer to the action. (She went to the fan expo yesterday and we had a great time. Haha.)

I read that most Americans want to Falcons to win or, better said, they want the Patriots to lose. I’ve seen it politicized (THEY LOVE TRUMP!) and I know there’s a strong bias against the Pats because, well, people hate it when other people are successful. But they are a force. And, win or lose, this isn’t going to be easy.

Me, I want my team to hoist that trophy, but I can honestly say that if they don’t, they will have still made me proud. They made it this far. They shut up a lot of big mouths. A win would be like the icing on an already pretty great cake…which reminds me, I have some work to do. (Thanks a lot, Cowboys.)

#RiseUp, friends! And no matter how you’re cheering today, I think we can all agree that it should be a really good game. Enjoy!