Sunday, February 28, 2010

Congrats to the USA....

Why you say, they didn't win, say???

It's been 8 years since the USA went against Canada for an Olympic medal.

And perhaps 8 years since I cared so deeply.

But today, I cared. Today I sat with people who cared. And on some small level, that means more to me than the victory.

Not that 8 years ago, people wouldn't have cared, but that 8 years ago, I was sitting by myself waiting for the USA to win, and waiting for people to care. And I wasn't sure they did.

But today, I saw Devils fans and Rangers fans unite. As bizarre as that may be. I saw them unite under the common goal of USA. And I was happy for that.

As much as I wanted USA to win - and OOHHHH did I want USA to win - I was happy for the chance to cheer them on. The chance among friends. The chance among us all.

A chance for people to care, no matter how few. And I loved that chance.

The USA has nothing to be ashamed of.

Miller - was brilliant.

Burke's plan - was as close to perfect as you can get.

USA did me proud.

Did each and every one of us Americans proud.

No regets here....

I know, we, as Americans, wish we were able to get the Gold.

But, important enough, the belief that we can someday, and someday soon, get that Gold.

I think that's what today meant to me. It meant that even if we weren't there yet, we would be there someday, and perhaps, someday soon.

I didn't feel that 8 years ago. But I felt that today.

I shed a few tears.

NOT when they lost.

But because I was not the only one cheering.

And that means something. That means more than many may know.

Thank you, Team USA. Thank you for the glorious ride. And congratulations on the Silver medal.

Why, you ask?

Because it is silver, again yes, but it is silver with the promise of gold. And I hope to be there- anywhere- when the USA is so priviledged to win the gold, as I believe they will.

Congrats Canada. But thank you USA! Proud to be an American. And proud of you for the journey you've taken, nad have yet to embark on.....

Monday, February 15, 2010

Come Olympic Time, Who Are You Rooting For. . .?

Ask a hockey fan who they are rooting during these Olympic games and for many it's completely cut and dry.

If you are Canadian, you are rooting for Canada.

A Finn, a Swede, a Czech - I'd think the same.

But for some Americans, perhaps, asking who they are rooting for during the Olympic games may not be so easy.

Or at least it wasn't always so easy to me. I'll try to clarify before people start assuming I am not patriotic. That's really not the case.

The first winter Olympics I truly immersed myself in for hockey was 2002 in Salt Lake. I watched the 1998 in Nagano, but it didn't have the same effect. But 2002, that was, for me, two of the greatest weeks of my life.

I missed classes, called out from my part time job, wore socks for the country I was rooting for during every game. There is one day in particular where there were four games throughout the day - I remember not leaving the couch. I think back and think, as a hockey fan, that may have been one of the greatest days I ever spent.

I was rooting for the Americans that year, and rooting hard. I think in the wake of 9/11, it seemed the most natural thing to do. I was big into baseball at the time - America's game - and the feelings of national pride just swept right through me and carried through into everything. Those Olympics were fantastic and they were no different.

The Americans lost to Canada, as you well know, and I did cry. I wanted so badly for Team USA to win.

However, I took big solace, as a Rangers fan, that New York's Eric Lindros and Theo Fleury won the gold. Even then, I was able to transfer my sadness into happiness for them.

And I think that began a period of realizing you could do both. Root for your country and root for players you like.


When the 2006 Olympics came around, a player I had a ton of respect for and loved so much - Brian Leetch - was not included on the roster. True, Leetch was playing in what would be his last season in the NHL with the Bruins, and not anywhere near the player he once was, but I thought, perhaps biasedly, he deserved to go. And I was disappointed that Chelios was not deemed too old, but Leetch was.

That year, the Rangers were sending a HUGE number of Olympians - the majority from Czech Republic.

So I asked myself what made more sense, at the time - rooting for an American team without my favorite player, or rooting for a team that was going to have Jagr, Straka, Rucinsky, Malik, and (what we thought) Prucha?

And I went Czech Republic. And I don't regret it either.

Additionally, I rooted for Team Sweden. I mean it was OUR goalie that was going to lead them. Why should I not root for them too?

So as the Olympics played out, and Teams USA and Canada disappointed, I rooted for Team Czech, Team Russia, Team Sweden, whoever had a player from our team. And I saw nothing wrong with that.

Would I have been disappointed if another team won? No.

Was I happy OUR goalie won the Olympic gold? Absolutely.


Fast forward to present day. We have a similar situation. I love a few American players - Kane and Thomas and Callahan in particular. I will root for them, certainly. If they win the Gold Medal (any medal) I will be so PROUD. I sincerely mean that.

But am I going to root against Team Sweden and OUR goalie?

Am I going to root against Team Russia with that other goalie on that team I watch a lot - Bryzgalov - and the most dynamic player in the league - Ovechkin?

Am I rooting against Team Slovakia with our Gaborik, the guy who has carried our team all season?

And I seriously going to root against a Team Czech that has Zbynek Michalek and (my gosh I wish you were still here with all my heart) Jaromir Jagr?!

No. I can't and I won't.

I'm going to root for a fantastic Olympics. I'm going to root for the best team to win. And preferably the best team is a team with a player I root for on it.

Does that make me less of an American?

I honestly just think it makes me more of a hockey fan.


Predictions Anyone?

For the record, and before hockey begins tomorrow, I'm not going to play guessing games with who can or should or will win.

But if Ryan Miller gets hot, the US has a chance, surely.

If Hank gets hot, Sweden can do the same. We saw it happen.

Canada is a favorite to most, and rightfully so, but I cannot and will not ignore Team Russia. Three of arguably the top five goal scorers in the league - Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk - and two of the best goalies in the league, both having stellar years - Bryzgalov and Nabokov.

I know Canada could build three teams before anyone else could assemble one...but this will be a competition - be sure of that.

Oh and for the record, do I root against Canada even though until Marc Staal is on the team I don't have a player I LOVE on it?

No. Why should I.

I just hope the best team wins. Whatever country that may be.

Rangers Heading Into Olympic Break...

Well, if you are going to head into Olympic break, you might as well go in like the Rangers did.

(Of course, ideally, you'd like to go in with a 10+ point lead on the next team behind you and leading your division, but, come on, these are the Rangers here; we have to be happy with what we can get.)

Anyway, so the Rangers last two games leading into the break were an impressive win against Pittsburgh IN Pittsburgh, in a building they hadn't won at in over two year and yesterday's hard fought come from behind victory over Tampa Bay at the Garden.

The Pittsburgh win was important because, well, they are Pittsburgh, and see above regarding the Rangers inability to win there. Wins like that build confidence.

The Tampa Bay win had a bit of everything. The come from behind aspect. The scoring five goals aspect. It had fights. It had goals. It had the feeling of an enjoyable hockey game we frankly have just not seen often enough this year at the Garden.

(If we're being honest.)


Where does that leave the Rangers though?

Sadly, probably in no real better position than they were the week before and when they come back from Olympic break. The Eastern playoff race is simply a log-jam.

At break, the Rangers sit in 10th place, with 63 points, and one game above .500. To better put in perspective, they are 5 points out of 6th place. But they also only have 4 more wins than Carolina, a team that slept through the entire first half of the hockey season.

So, when people ask me if the Rangers are going to make the playoffs, I say this. They have as good a chance as anyone. The Rangers didn't do themselves any favors this year, by starting hot and then failing to score (unless they were #10), blowing some bad games, and having a horrible record at MSG. But at the same time, everyone in the East has been so up and down, the Rangers own foot-shooting has not totally ruined their post-season chances. (And just imagine where they'd be if they did not have such a hot start?)

Now if Gaborik or Lundqvist does not come back in one piece from their tours of Olympic duty, or even if they come back whole but go on to struggle, I don't think this team has a shot. But, again, that's something many of us were saying in September. This team will go as Gaby and Hank take them. And we've seen, when one or both struggle, the Rangers rarely win.

The last two Gaborik-less games were a nice exception.


Now, of course, none of this is to say the Rangers would do anything in the playoffs, Hank or no Hank, Gaby or no Gaby. If this season has shown us anything, it's that the Rangers do not have the depth for much of anything.

Their defense is young or old, and the contracts of the old contigent prevents them from getting much help in any way.

Their offense starts and ends with one player, whose 35 goals have been carrying this team for the entire season. Prospal has been a wonderful surprise. Callahan has started to pot some more goals recently to get closer to the 20 many expected (hoped) him to have. But beyond that, the offense-from-defense is practically non-existent and has been since the earlier parts of the season. The secondary scoring is absent, or comes in little droves, like having five good games and then 15 mediocre ones. (See: Captain Fun).

So, no I don't think this team is going far this year, no matter how the Olympics or post-Olympic month and a half of the season play out.

But, if we learned anything from last year's playoff experience, a somewhat mediocre team can push a much, much better team to the brink of elimination with some stellar goaltending. So if the Rangers happen to sneak into a spot, you never know what can potentially, impractically happen.


Meanwhile, the Olympic break looms, followed by a very short time frame for any trade activity.

Do I think the Rangers should do anything?

Umm, baring them finding a way to shed any of the big 3 (Rozi, Redden, Drury) contracts, I don't see why they should. I mean yes, they could trade people away to real contenders, and that'd be fine, but they should in no way sacrifice any big parts of their always uncertain future for a rental - a rental that will probably lead them right to a first round exit.

Just saying. . .