Sunday, September 7, 2008

Here we go again

Since the Dolphins kick off their season (my 28th year as a Dolfan, BTW) later today, I offer this YouTube clip of the one bright spot from last year's abysmal 1-15 season ... along with some dripping sarcasm from TV's Jim Rome. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Finding their way back to TV

I was slapping together the lifestyles section for today's paper ... so needless to say, I felt compelled to throw in the wire story about Rush playing "Tom Sawyer" on tonight's episode of The Colbert Report.

(To sum up my last Rush-related post: RUSH! WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!)

The first thought that went through my head when I read the wire story was "Rush? On the TV? When was the last time that happened?" And sure enough, I had my answer by the end of the second paragraph -- they haven't appeared on U.S. television since 1975. I would have been three years old at the time.

Here's their last U.S. television appearance ... doing two songs from their debut album and another from Fly By Night on that most awesome of all '70s shows, Don Kirshner's Rock Concert.

Finding My Way

In The Mood

Best I Can

Here's a little-known piece of Rush trivia: Back in the '70s, Geddy Lee used to spend half his income on hair care products.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Random acts of blogness

Every so often, it's perversely entertaining to hit the "next blog" button at the top of the page to see what other people are up to on Blogger. With that in mind, here are five blogs I came across after jumping off from my own. I am now bound to live vicariously through these people.

Club VAIO -- Apparently, this is the "unofficial Club VAIO blog." No word on whether the folks at the official Club VAIO blog approve.

The Ride For Rwanda -- This site is kinda creepy when you consider these plucky riders for Rwanda were within a three-hour drive of me earlier this week ... can that be considered stalking?

Grandma Faith's Fabulous Life -- If you like cow ornaments, this page is for you!

I Love Jade Sadly, no discussion of the David Caruso movie.

A Little Bit of Sugar and A Whole Lotta Spice! Clearly, someone knows a lot more than I do about formatting one of these blog pages.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Where else can you do half a dozen things ... all at a quarter to three?

In my undying effort to support the local economy here in Brandon, I stopped by the 7-Eleven on my way home from work tonight to get some gas, since the needle was practically right on empty.

I put about $25 worth of gas in the tank, then went inside to pay. You know the drill.

It's strangely comforting to know that there are a few constants in an ever-changing universe. Whenever you walk into the 7-Eleven right near the Hughes-cienda, you can always be assured of two things:

1. Regardless of what time of day you're there, you stand an excellent chance of waiting in line behind some asshat ordering chicken.

During the day, you're stuck behind stupid people ordering chicken. In the wee hours of the morning -- drunk people! Swell. And just out of curiosity ... How gross would that chicken be by 3 o'clock in the morning? I'm afraid to find out.

2. If there are two or more employees working, whoever has the worst people skills will invariably be working behind the counter.

I happened to be wearing a Dolphins T-shirt and a Dodgers hat when I walked into the store, which led to this exchange between me and the guy behind the counter ...

CLERK: You couldn't decide between the Dolphins or Dodgers?

ME: Well, they play two different sports, so I'm not really torn.

CLERK: Oh ... you don't like the CFL?

ME: Uh, yeah.

CLERK: What's your favorite team?

ME: The Riders.

CLERK: Saskatchewan?

No, the ones from Casper, Wyoming, dingus. At some point, you have to just bite your tongue and make a break for the door.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Sympathy for an ex-Devil

All year long, people whine and complain about my beloved Devils: "Oh, they're so boring! They've ruined hockey with the trap! How I long for the days of firewagon hockey back in the '80s, when every game ended 9-8 and guys were assisting on their own goals!"


No, dear readers and only friends, being a Devils fan isn't a barrel of laughs most days. When you're not being made to feel like you should apologize (ha!) for supporting one of the NHL's elite franchises over the last 15 years, you're watching key players from your team's glory years get lured away, one by one, every July at the start of the league's free-agency period.

Last year, the Devils lost Scott Gomez and Brian Rafalski. A couple of years before that, Scott Niedermayer bolted for Anaheim. And in 2002, Bobby Holik signed a five-year, $45-million contract with the treacherous New York Rangers.

(Actually, the Holik contract was pretty funny, come to think of it ... he signed for an absurd amount of money and didn't do much, and the Rangers missed the playoffs the next season while the Devils won their third Stanley Cup, with a guy wearing Holik's old number, Mike Rupp, scoring the Cup-winning goal in Game 7.)

This year, the Devils did reasonably well in free agency. In fact, they managed to bring back a couple of guys they had parted ways with over the years. Holik came back, signing a one-year, $2.5-million deal. And Brian Rolston -- who won a Cup with New Jersey in 1995 and then developed into a really good two-way forward during stints with Colorado, Boston and Minnesota -- agreed to a four-year, $20-million contract. Not only that, but the Devils hung on to some of their other players, re-signing Jay Pandolfo, Bryce Salvador and David Clarkson.

Still, it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows on Tuesday. While they kept Pandolfo, the Devils effectively severed ties with one of my all-time favorite players: 13-year veteran Sergei Brylin. Apparently, they couldn't afford to keep Brylin and Pandolfo, so they chose not to pick up Brylin's $1.52-million option for next season. There's a chance they might bring him back at a lower salary, but right now, it's not looking good.


Sarge was drafted by the Devils in 1992, and had played in the organization since the 1994-95 season. His stats were far from flashy: 129 goals and 179 assists in 765 games. Last season, he played all 82 games, but finished with a grand total of 16 points (six goals, 10 assists). But Brylin was a good fit for the Devils' system -- and even when he wasn't piling up the points, you knew he wasn't killing them with bonehead penalties or costly turnovers.

Brylin flew under the radar, to put it mildly. For many people who aren't Devils fans -- and holy crap, are there ever a lot of them out there! -- he'll probably live on as the stumper in a trivia question ...

Hey, here's one for you: Name the five players who were on all three Devils' Stanley Cup teams.

Well, there's Martin Brodeur, obviously. And Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer. Ken Daneyko played there forever, so he must be one of them, right?

Right. But there's one more guy.

Um ... was it Claude Lemieux?

No, he was long gone by 2003.

Hmmmmmmm ... Jay Pandolfo?

Nope. He wasn't there until after 1995.

What about somebody like Tommy Albelin?

Well, Albelin played in New Jersey in 1995 and 2003, but he was with the Flames in 2000.

OK, I give up. Who was it?

Sergei Brylin.

Oh, right! Brylin. I totally forgot about that guy.

(And scene.)

Brylin may not have been the most recognizable Devils player in franchise history, but I always got the impression he was very well-liked within the organization, particularly by Devils GM-for-life Lou Lamoriello. Judging from what Lou told reporters on Tuesday, that sure seems to be the case.

"We need a lot of time to explain what he's brought. He played the '95 Stanley Cup game, the final game, where he was second star and then spent the next year and a half in the minors. He came back and played on two other Cup teams and was an integral part. That's the tough decisions that you have to go through, and you've got to be very, very careful where your heart and your head are. I can't say enough of what he's brought and who he is as a person and his character."

Personally, I couldn't get enough of Brylin. When I bought a Devils jersey last year, I had five or six days before I took it in to get customized ... and I spent the entire time debating whether to put Daneyko's name and number or Brylin's name and number on it. Eventually, I went with Dano, since he was the last player on the Devils who was with the team when I started cheering for them way back in 1983.

But think about that for a moment: Stevens is already in the hall of fame and Brodeur and Niedermayer are locks to follow him once they retire. Then you've got players on the current roster like Patrick Elias, John Madden, Brian Gionta and Zach Parise; guys who played a key role in some of their other Stanley Cup runs, like Lemieux in 1995, Jason Arnott in 2000 or former Regina Pat Jeff Friesen in 2003, to name a few; and old-school guys who go all the way back to the 1980s, like John MacLean, Kirk Muller, Sean Burke, Chris Terreri and my favorite Devil all the way through high school, Pat Verbeek. (Nineteen years later, I'm still annoyed at Lamoriello for trading Verbeek to Hartford for Sylvain Turgeon before the 1989 draft. Boo-urns!) But when the time came to put it out there and commit to having a player's name and number on a jersey that I'd wear with fierce pride out in public, I was torn between a third- or fourth-line forward (Brylin) and a defenceman (Daneyko) who was a healthy scratch during a big chunk of the Devils' last Stanley Cup run. Those are just some of the bizarre things you obsess about when you're a fan, I suppose.

Brylin's shining moment in a Devils jersey came on June 24, 1995, during the third period in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final against Detroit. With the Devils clinging to a 3-2 lead -- after Neal Broten's second absolutely hideous goal of the game -- Brylin scored an insurance goal and assisted on another as the Devils won 5-2, completing a four-game sweep, winning their first Stanley Cup and making the world safe for democracy. (OK, maybe I'm overblowing the importance of that game just a wee bit. But believe me, it was a big deal.)

Almost seven minutes into the third period, the Red Wings had a glorious chance to tie the game. Detroit right winger Martin Lapointe had the puck in the corner and put it on net. The puck went off Brodeur's stick and Rolston's skate, then slowly crept across the slot. The only Devils player on that side of the ice, Randy McKay, had overskated it, leaving just one person from either team in position to get to the puck ... Paul Coffey.

Yep, that Paul Coffey. The guy who's in the hall of fame. The guy who won four Stanley Cups and three Norris trophies (the last one coming in 1995) and is the second highest-scoring defenceman in the history of the NHL. The same guy who got Detroit's second goal of the game in the first period from almost the same spot on the ice where the puck was at that moment.

Even more troubling from my perspective, Coffey had been a member of that most sinister of hockey juggernauts -- the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s (and the first five months of 1990). In fairness, Coffey had left Edmonton with some degree of bitterness, so by the mid-90s he was pretty much the only player from those old Oilers teams I didn't want to run down with my Plymouth Horizon. Still, Coffey bore the stain of having played for the Oilers, which means he probably took some kind of oath in the mid-80s to do things that annoyed the bejesus out of me.

And considering I was only a year removed from the sting of watching the Rangers -- with such dastardly former Oilers as Craig MacTavish, Kevin Lowe, Glenn Anderson, Jeff Beukeboom, Esa Tikkanen and Adam Graves ... not to mention old Pumpkinhead himself, Mark Messier -- eliminate the Devils in the conference finals, I was more than a little paranoid about some old Edmonton great coming out of the woodwork to stick it to my team.

Looking back at Game 4 on a well-worn VHS tape, only a second or two elapses between the time the puck deflects off Rolston's skate and Coffey's shot on Brodeur. But as soon as I saw Coffey moving in on the puck, time slowed to a crawl. I remember watching the game in my parents' living room in Regina, instinctively reaching out towards the TV screen like something apocalyptic was about to happen. And even though the Devils were up by a goal -- and leading a best-of-seven series three games to none -- two seconds was more than enough time for the superstitious, delusional, sports fan voice in my head to go into hyperdrive ...

NOOOOOOOOOO! It's going to happen again! Coffey's going to score, Detroit's going to win tonight and they'll take this godforsaken series in seven games. Could someone please, PLEASE just shoot me in the head right now and get this over with? I can't bear to go through this shrill, shrieking nightmare two years in a row! Damn you all to hell, former Oilers! Why must you insist on casting me in your theatre of cruelty?!?!?

Fortunately, Coffey didn't get off a very good shot on Brodeur -- Marty made a pretty routine pad save, and on the tape, you can see Coffey circle back to the blueline a broken shell of a man, looking up to the rafters, realizing he missed a golden opportunity to tie the game and, consequently, drive me closer to the brink of insanity.

When Holik brought the puck out of the Devils' zone a few seconds after Coffey's scoring chance, my inner voice of reason made a rare appearance -- even more rare, considering I was watching a Devils game at the time -- in an effort to keep me from having a massive coronary before I had a chance to see my team hoist the Stanley Cup.

John, calm down. Calm down! That was Detroit's last chance. Coffey can go cram it with walnuts. The Devils are going to win, and they're going to do it tonight. Another 12 and a half minutes and we're home. Just be cool!

Moments later, Sergei Brylin secured his place in the annals of sports Hughes-tory.

NEW JERSEY - Brylin 1 (Rolston, Guerin), 7:46.

Granted, it's not the most graceful goal of all time. From the blueline to his rebound off Rolston's shot right into the corner, Brylin had Dino Ciccarelli draped all over him. Then the two of them get into the corner, and they both fall down. And when Brylin gets up and beats Ciccarelli to the front of the net and is all alone in front of Mike Vernon, Rolston's pass winds up in his skates. But what a move by Brylin to get the puck on his stick, then get his stick around in time to get the puck past Vernon's outstretched pad.

But as far as great goals in Devils history go, I'd have to put this one in my top three. Brylin's goal is right behind MacLean's overtime goal to put the Devils in the playoffs in 1988 and Arnott's Stanley Cup-winning goal in double overtime against Dallas in 2000, but only because both of those goals were game-winners and, given their sheer importance, sent me into fits of giddy euphoria. (Niedermayer's end-to-end rush in Game 2 of the 1995 final -- capped off, of course, by him batting his own rebound out of the air and into the net -- is a very close fourth.)

The YouTube clip above is from the Fox telecast (Alas, no computer chip to follow the flight of the puck, but hey: FoxBots!). While John Davidson was breaking down the goal on Fox, Bob Cole was telling a story over on CBC (in that rambling, confused manner that's vintage Bob Cole) about how Devils coach Jacques Lemaire had been able to successfully move guys in and out of the lineup all the way through the playoffs -- like putting Jim Dowd into the lineup for Game 2, for example.

"So Jacques Lemaire has done it again. I talked to him before the game, looking for any possible lineup changes. And I've gotta say, he's been very fair with me, and I guess other broadcasters. But I looked at the lineup from the third game, and I showed it to him. And he said: 'Well, we haven't made our mind up yet, Bob.' And I said: 'Jacques, are you sure? Come on, it's to help me.' And he said: 'OK, let me see your lineup again' ... As we look at Brylin scoring the goal. And (Brylin) was the story because he was at the very bottom of my list. And he said: 'Bob, put him in. And also put Rolston in.' And the two of them get together and get a HUGE goal."

Under the radar, bottom of the list. Whatever you want to call it, there was Brylin, helping his team win a Stanley Cup.

A couple of minutes after Brylin scored, the Devils went on a power play when Stu Grimson (another former Regina Pat) took a roughing penalty. Just as the penalty expired, Brylin assisted on Shawn Chambers' second goal of the game to make it 5-2.

NEW JERSEY - Chambers 4 (Brylin, Guerin), 12:32.

If only it was that easy every time out.

It may seem strange to blather on for 2,400 words about a player who never covered himself in much glory. But like I said earlier, these are the things you obsess about when you're a fan.

Of course, all good things must come to an end. And you can't really expect the Devils to sugarcoat the bad news, can you? Imagine reading something like this in the transactions in the sports section:

NEW JERSEY DEVILS -- Announced Tuesday that forward Sergei Brylin has agreed to play hockey on a farm, where he'll get lots of ice time and all the Gatorade he can drink. And no, you can't go to the farm to watch him play.

I hope like hell that the Devils will figure out a way to bring Brylin back, but if not, I couldn't have asked for anything more from the guy.

Miss you already, Sarge. Thanks for everything.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Ooooooooh, the Germans!

I was rooting for the Germans during Euro 2008 ... mainly because it's kinda fun to say the name "Bastian Schweinsteiger" over and over.

The Germans lost 1-0 to Spain in the final on Sunday. Sure, I'm a little bummed out, but it was far from the worst loss the Germans have ever suffered on the soccer pitch.

Remember that time during the Second World War when the Germans lost to a plucky, ragtag group of Allied prisoners of war?

Or how about back in the 70s when the Greeks beat them 1-0 in Munich?

As always, a little perspective goes a long way.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

News John can use ...

As you know, dear readers and only friends, I'm a newspaper copy editor.

Between local copy and whatever's on the wire, chances are the other copy editors and I will be looking at dozens of stories while we lay out the paper over the course of an evening. You'd figure at some point, a dude would stumble across a story that affects him personally. You know, something that hits him right where he lives. But it doesn't always happen.

On Tuesday night, I was working on the lifestyles section and came across a vital nugget of information in a wire story.

What was it? A foolproof way to save for an early retirement? Some simple change I can make to live a healthier lifestyle? Well, no.

In hindsight, the headline didn't really suggest that anything in the story would appeal to me ...


The story in a nutshell: Basically, De Niro and a herd of other investors own a swanky hotel that opened up in Tribeca in April, and they're trying to convince a group of city commissioners that they shouldn't have to do a complete remodeling of a penthouse suite just because it didn't match up with the original plans.

Really, none of this should interest me at all. I've never been to New York, so it's not like I know my way around Manhattan, much less Tribeca. And why should I give a hoot about a ritzy hotel where the rooms start at $625 a night?

Well, in the eighth paragraph, the story mentions that a bona fide celebrity came to De Niro's aid: none other than actor-director Ed Burns, who has been a fixture on my fecal roster since the afternoon of June 7, 2003, when he married the most awe-inspiring supermodel ever to walk the earth -- Christy Freakin' Turlington.

Oh, Christy. I realize that aside from the fact we're both carbon-based lifeforms, we really don't have much in common. And sure, my chances of sweeping you off your feet may have improved greatly if you knew I existed. (Come to think of it, maybe that was an ace up my sleeve. But I digress.)

Still ... Ed Burns? You married Ed Burns? Really? Argh! All my dreams of being a trophy husband dashed! DASHED!

What was I talking about again? Right ... this fancy-schmancy hotel.

So anyhow, Mr. Wonderful himself, Ed Burns, went before the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission on De Niro's behalf on Tuesday to tell them the hotel's design doesn't stick out like a sore thumb in Tribeca.

Here's the quote from the story:

"For me as a lay person, the architecture is beautiful," said Burns, who lives across the street from the hotel.

So what exactly did I learn? Well, if I ever decided to get my act together and head down to New York, I could stalk Christy Turlington. Now I know where she lives! Right across the street from the Greenwich hotel in Tribeca!

You can almost hear her lawyers working in shifts to draft a pre-emptive restraining order, can't you?

UPDATE, 2:35 P.M.: Of course, hours after I mused about Christy Turlington's lawyers getting all litigious on me, I stumbled across this story. If it isn't one thing, it's another, right?