Tag Archives: #nbcsn

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO PROFESSIONAL SPORTS?

On Friday night, during Game 5 of the opening round Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Washington Capitals there was a scary moment.  Late in the first period a hard submarine check by Toronto’s Nazem Kadri left Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin motionless on the ice for a brief moment.  Ovechkin would be helped off the ice and would return to the game at the start of the second period.

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Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin being helped off the ice following a hit by Toronto’s Nazem Kadri.

 

Kadri was given a two-minute minor penalty for what was deemed “tripping” as a result of the play.  As the call was made, I thought to myself, what was illegal about it? Ovechkin had recent possession  of the puck, and Kadri hit him low and hard.  It was textbook, hard nosed hockey in my old school mind.  It was unfortunate, and scary, that one of hockey’s brightest stars laid motionless on the Verizon Center ice as a result, but it is part of a very physical sport.  The panel of experts on NBCSN tended to agree with me during their intermission show following the first period.  Everyone in the hockey world was relieved and happy to see Ovechkin return to the ice and continue to play.  He’s fine and ready to go in tonight’s Game 6.

This incident made me think of where sports has gone in general.  I grew up in an era where hockey and football were hard-hitting, bone jarring sports.  I grew up in an era where starting pitchers in baseball finished what they started, the bullpen only got involved if the starter was having trouble, or was lifted for a pinch-hitter.  The one on one play at home plate between runner and catcher was also part of the game.  I also come from an era where professional basketball players weren’t rested because of the “grueling” 82 game schedule.

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The new baseball in between innings clock.

 

Baseball was always the game that surpassed time.  When did a day at the ballpark where you can have a hot dog, sip on a beverage, and pass the time with your friends and family turn into a race against time?  Last year MLB in its infinite wisdom, rolled out the “in between innings timer.”  I cringe every time I see this ridiculous clock pop out of the scoreboard.

To continue to speed up the pace of a ballgame they added a new rule this year, the automatic walk!  Automatic walk??? For over a hundred years, four balls equaled a walk, intentional or not.  Anything from a wild pitch or the batter actually making contact with the purposely thrown ball can still happen.  Many of us who were around in the early 1970’s can even remember the Oakland A’s faking an intentional walk during the 1972 World Series.  The fakeout resulted in a strikeout of Reds star Johnny Bench.

If you want to speed things up in baseball, tone down the pitching changes!  Starting pitchers are on such strict pitch counts these days that they are being pulled regardless of how they are performing.  Meanwhile Tommy John surgeries have skyrocketed.  For generations baseball was played without counting pitches.  For generations from Walter Johnson to Nolan Ryan starting pitchers were on the mound until either they were in trouble or were removed because the team was behind and pinch hit for him in order to generate some offense.

Most of us hard-core football fans have seen the sport decline too.  Over the years the quarterback has been a little over protected.  Last I checked, wasn’t it the offensive line’s job to protect the quarterback?  The modification of the intentional grounding rule has also softened things in this writer’s opinion.  Why does it matter if a quarterback is in the pocket or not if he throws the ball to nobody to avoid a sack?

Finally let’s look at basketball.  Multiple times this year the Cleveland Cavaliers rested Lebron James and fellow stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.  Excuse my ignorance, but when did an 82 game NBA season become so grueling that players needed to be rested?  In baseball I can understand resting players, whether or not they are stars.  You are playing day in and day out, sometimes twice a day.  Your team plays at 1:00 after ending a game at 11:00 the night before.  In basketball you play an occasional back to back in successive nights.  I have never seen this before.  I seriously don’t get it.

Maybe I’m too old school.

 

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THE EPIC THAT IS STANLEY CUP OVERTIME

On this holiest of Sundays I would like to extend my wishes for a happy and healthy Easter and Passover (which is still in progress) to all who are celebrating.  This time of year conjures up thoughts of colored eggs and bunnies.  The smell of matzoh ball soup and brisket fills Jewish kitchens, matzoh and kosher wine are on display at the local supermarket along side the spiral ham.

To the hockey fan, holiday week in April coincides with the battle for hockey’s holy grail! The fight for the Stanley Cup began this week.

What is unique about the sport of hockey is the slight change in the rules once the post-season begins.  During the regular season tie games are decided by a five-minute overtime period in which each team is only allowed to field three skaters and a goaltender.  The first team to score wins the game.  If the game is still tied after the five minute session the game is settled via a tie breaking shootout.  Each team takes turns having a skater go one on one with the opposing goaltender for a minimum of 3 rounds with the winner scroring one more time than the other team.

So here is the slight but powerful change in the rules.  In the Stanley Cup Playoffs there is no 3 on 3 for five minutes, and shootouts go out the window too.  What the system is replaced with is one simple rule, next goal wins.  Teams continue the game the way it was meant to be played, the overtime rules are the same as regulation.  Five skaters an a goaltender for each team just like the first three periods.

Unique to the rules in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is the fact that the game can end in ten seconds or half the night!

During game 2 of the 1986 Stanley Cup Finals, Brian Skrudland scored nine seconds into overtime as the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Calgary Flames 3-2.  To date this is the shortest playoff overtime in NHL history.

There have been many long overtime games in NHL history.  Two Cup winners that come to mind took place in 1996 and 1999.

Game 4 of the 1996 Finals, in my opinion, was the greatest display of goaltending I have ever seen.   Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche and John Vanbiesbrouck of the Florida Panthers went toe to toe.  At the end of regulation the game was in a scoreless tie.  At 4:31 of the third overtime, Vanbiesbrouck would flinch.  Uwe Krupp beat the Florida goaltender to clinch a four game sweep and win the Stanley Cup.

Game 6 of the 1999 Finals was tied at one at the end of regulation.  The Dallas Stars had a 3-2 series lead over the Buffalo Sabres.  Dominik Hasek (Buffalo) and Ed Belfour (Dallas) put on a similar clinic as Roy and Vanbiesbrouck did in 1996.  The Sabres tied the game with 1:31 remaining in the second period.  The game winning (and Cup winning) goal remains one of the most controversial goals in Stanley Cup Finals history.

Stars’ Brett Hull scored the winning goal at 14:51 of the third overtime period.  What was questionable about the goal was the fact that Hull had a skate in the goal crease when he shot the puck past a sprawling Hasek.  It was ruled that Hull had control of the puck, but not posession of the puck, when he entered the crease.  Following the 1999 Finals the league sent out a memo clarifying the rule.

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Brett Hull scores the game winning goal in Game 6 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals.

With today being Easter Sunday, I have to talk about the game known as the Easter Epic.   This coming Tuesday and Wednesday marks its 30th anniversary.

The New York Islanders and Washington Capitals were paired in the first round of the 1987 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  The series went to a seventh game, and what a seventh game it was!

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Pat LaFontaine is mobbed by his Islander teammates after ending the longest Game 7 in playoff history.

 

Game 7 was played at the old Capital Centre in Landover Md.  The game began on Saturday April 18, 1987 and concluded just before 2:00 am on Easter Sunday.

After two periods of play the Capitals held a 2-1 lead.  As an Islanders fan I wasn’t feeling too good about things at that point.  The score remained the same well into the third period and it appeared Washington was headed to the next round.  That all changed with just over five minutes left in regulation!  Bryan Trottier’s backhand shot beat Capitals goaltender Bob Mason to tie the score.  What happened after that was legendary!

Islanders goaltender Kelly Hrudy made 73 saves, Mason made 54.  Pat LaFontaine’s slapshot at 8:47 of the fourth overtime beat the Capital’s goaltender to win the game and the series for New York.  Mason was screened and never saw the shot.  The puck hit the post and caromed into the Washington net.

There have been so many dramatic moments over the years during these extra sessions.  The mystique of not knowing when the game will end is clearly one of the biggest drama in all of sports.

 

 

 

WEDNESDAY NIGHT BASEBALL-GREAT TIMES AT WRIGLEY FIELD

All but one of Major League Baseball’s thirty clubs have now staged their home openers. Sun Trust Park in suburban Atlanta awaits to be christened on Friday night.  Julio Teheran will open the Braves new home against the visiting Padres.

Out of the twenty-nine season premiers that have been staged so far there was one that was over a century in the making.  Before Monday night’s home opener at Wrigley Field, the Cubs held a ceremony for the first time in 108 years!  They raised the World Series Championship flag and paraded the World Series Trophy!

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Chicago Cubs take turns raising the 2016 World Series Flag at Wrigley Field Monday night.

 

So how do you put the finishing touches on a championship 108 years in the making? Well, the Cubs literally did it themselves!  Members of the squad went into the bleachers and took turns raising the championship banner up the flagpole.  Let it be known for all time that the curse is over, the drought has ended.  The 2016 World Series Championship banner now hangs amid the iconic scoreboard and team flags.  The W’s and L’s for years to come will hang in the shadow of the biggest Cubs flag of them all.

Oh and by the way, the Cubs hosted the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night.  Yes, the same Dodgers that were on the wrong end of history last October, when the Cubs headed back to the Series for the first time since 1945.

How did things end on this magical night on the Near North Side of Chicago?  It ended with a walk-off single, courtesy of Anthony Rizzo!  It ended with a 3-2 Cubs win!  It ended with the “W” flag hanging next to what is now its big brother!

The Cubs will receive their championship rings tonight.

Besides the heroics at the Friendly Confines, there were other highlights during the first week and a half of the 2017 season.  New York Mets left-fielder Yoenis Cespedes launched three home runs last night in Philadelphia.  The Mets tallied 20 total hits in a 14-4 route of the Phillies.

The Phillies had an explosion of their own on Saturday night against Washington.  Philadelphia erupted for twelve runs in the bottom of the first inning on their way to a 17-3 victory.

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This week’s defensive gem belongs to Miami’s center-fielder Christian Yelich.

 

On Saturday night at Citi Field in New York, Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich robbed Cespedes of what would’ve been either a home run or a double.  This is my defensive gem of the week.  Miami defeated the home standing Mets 8-1.

That’s it for this week.  I’ll be back next Wednesday for more!