Last month Sharks Director of Broadcasting and my boss, the great Frank Albin, wrote a piece about all he was thankful for. I recommend you check it out.
It is always a wise move to take a step back and realize all of the good things you have in life.
His Great White Bite inspired this very blog in a weird way.
Not to be a contrarian or just a simple jerk, but let me express some of the things that I can't stand in this great game of hockey.
"He Left His Feet"
And just pump your brakes right now. I know that I've gone on this rant before. However I am on a lifelong quest to eradicate this ridiculous inaccurate saying from the hockey vernacular. It is a stain on, dare I say, a scourge on this great game. He leapt, He jumped, He ascended. He elevated and his feet left the ice are all acceptable replacements.
"The Fly By"
After a player scores everybody's happy they hug on the ice and then like a Human Centipede they skate past their teammates on the bench who had nothing to do with the goal and "high five" each other. It's like the Ice Capades.
"Protecting the Goalie"
Spray a little snow, hack at a rebound near the goalies pads or gloves, brush past or Heaven forbid, make actual contact with a guy that is more heavily padded than a shopping mall Santa and watch a group of seemingly well adjusted individuals go crazier than Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Relax boys, your poor defenseless goalie is fine. Kevlar is an amazing product.
"The Pro Fighting Arguments"
It keeps the "Rats" from going overboard. It polices the game. It's a frustrating game and a physical release is needed. It has always been a part of the game. It protects the Stars. It can change the complexion of the game. If you eliminate fighting the stick work and cheap shots would send the game into chaos. The PFC's (Pro-Fighting Crowd) hang on to these myths like a baby clings to his "Binky". Like I've said before, I don't care what side you're on. I just care that you're intellectually honest. I'd have a heck of a lot more respect for the PFC's if they would just admit they LOVE watching two guys punch each other in the face.
What I call The "Adam Oates"
An "Adam Oates" is anyone who criticizes how a goal is scored or an exuberant celebration or if a team "runs up the score". Anything of the "oh, we can't hurt the feelings school of thought out there. Full disclosure time. I pulled an "Adam Oates" last season when I criticized the Edmonton Oilers Nail Yakupov for a wild celebration when he scored a game winner. Unlike the Fonz, I can admit when I was Wwrr..Ww.. Wro...Wrong! You young people Google It. The "Oatsies" of the NHL talk about respect for the game or the opponent. They hide behind tradition and lament about the "kids these days." As the Great Igor Larionov once told me, "Drew, you don't work hockey, you play hockey."
So let the boys play, have fun, score as many ! between the legs 9th goal in a 9-2 win as you can. Pump your fists, slide on the ice, pull a Selanne and shoot your glove. Why are so many Tough Guys so thin skinned? They're more sensitive than a non-praying mantis in church.
..and yes I do realize that this clearly contradicts my earlier thoughts on the "Fly By"
But hey, I'm not perfect, I just act that way.
A few thoughts this morning.
Tonight (Thursday) Jamie Baker will take my place on the broadcast. I am taking a game off to be at home in Saskatchewan with my family. My Boys are turning 17 and thanks to the Sharks and Comcast I'm able to celebrate with them.
Anyway...Bakes will do a bang up job.
Speaking of my Boys, they are referees! Yes my sons are refs, officials, zebras, stripes!
This is their first year officiating. So far so good. They tell me that the players are great, the parents haven't said much but some of the coaches are a bit too vocal for minor hockey. I'm trying not too look too guilty in that regard because I've got a bit of history with a few (very few) refs when I was coaching.
I was reading a sports column today and some puck pundit was handing out the NHL Individual Awards at the quarter point of the season. A ridiculous premiss I know. Sticking with the ridiculous, the three defenseman he suggested for the Norris Trophy were all cited for their offensive output. Truthfully only one of them could check his coat!
Isn't it time that the league added a new award. First change the Norris Trophy to the Bobby Orr Trophy for the Defenceman with the most points.
Then award the Norris Trophy to the best Defenceman. The guy who actually plays D-Fence.
Speaking of Defenceman how great is it to witness two of the best defenders in the league playing for the Sharks.
Marc Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun have taken their games to a new level of BlueLine Brilliance.
Do me a favour next game. Watch 44 & 61 next game. Notice how they use their sticks, skate and take away angles, communicate, work the net front and efficiently they move the puck out of the zone. I'm sure you will be impressed.
From CBC's Elliotte Friedman after talking to Mike Murphy from the NHL
"[Referee Mike] Leggo waves it off when the puck hits the post and starts to come to the net as a scramble develops. [In the NHL's video review room in Toronto] we're still looking at the puck off the post, then see the play with Leggo approaching net, putting the whistle in his mouth and he waves aggressively.
"The optics would have been better if we got him to put on the headset and asked what he was seeing... We spoke after the game, I told him it did go in, we probably would get some pushback and should have gotten him over [to the headset] for the optics of the review."
Interestingly, the review would have happened before the league office actually knew the puck was in the net. It's not uncommon to review shots off the post or wild scrambles near the line, but like San Jose's broadcast team (Buffalo's didn't show it), Murphy and his mates didn't realize it was a goal until after play resumed. A goal cannot count in that situation.
Despite all this, Murphy is adamant it was the right call under Rule 78.5.
"Had we called a goal against Buffalo it would have been wrong, because it shouldn't have been a goal," he said. "We should have done the headsets, because any controversy would have died. This type of play is not a rarity."
Now from me..
...you see Rule 78.5 states a goal shall be disallowed when,
(xii) When the Referee deems the play has been stopped, even if he had not physically had the opportunity to stop play by blowing the whistle.
The whole "well I meant to or I was intending to blow the whistle."
The NHL's version of a Cover Your .. Well you know.
Mike Murphy's explanation of Mike Leggo's reasons for not calling a call that should have counted doesn't come close to what I saw, but 10 people can watch a play and come up with 10 different versions of the event.
However one time I would love the NHL to "own it". Just one time admitting that they booted the call.
It starts right after a game and goes right up until the next game. It's the work that the coaches put in breaking down video, scouting opponents and putting into detail what will help carry the Sharks to success.
I will give you the play-by-play:
The team has just boarded the plane for the trip back to San Jose after a tough loss in Los Angeles.
Before the equipment is loaded into the cargo bay, Todd McLellan, Larry Robinson, Jay Woodcroft, Jim Johnson, Wayne Thomas and Brett Heimlich have their individual computers out watching video.
They all watch the scoring chances for and against from the game they just coached. They will also watch for plays both good (foundation plays) and bad (breakdowns) that need to be highlighted and corrected before the next game.
The next step for the respective coaches is to go to work getting ready for the next opponent. Larry Robinson may be scouting the next game while Jim Johnson is analyzing the special teams. While that is happening Jay Woodcroft is scouting the first game of the opponent a game away.
Depending on the schedule, the coaches try to scout a minimum of two games of an upcoming opponent. Very often because of their work ethic they get in three or four games.
Tomorrow morning the coaches will meet early, (before 7AM) and as a group breakdown the scoring chances and tendencies in the previous night's game.
Collectively they will discuss highs, lows, good plays, bad plays and top performers and players that need some extra time with the coaches in order to meet performance expectations. It is important that they do this together, so that everyone is on the same page.
In other words, the players are being held accountable, but in a very honest and positive, "we're all in this to get better" approach.
After the video they practice plan and head out on the ice and put the guys through a fast paced, intelligent skate. Once again, focusing on getting better, everyone on the same page, let's keep pushing forward mentality.
This tireless work ethic and dedication is not uncommon amongst NHL coaching staffs. In "The Show" the coaching staffs are at the top of their game like the players.
What is uncommon from the Sharks perspective is the fun this particular coaching staff has working with each other and the way they process/share information amongst each other and with the players.
I have been privy to the laughs, jokes and good natured chirping that goes on between them. But with the jocularity is a high level of respect for each other, a passion to succeed and a deep love of the game.
So as the Sharks enjoy one of the best starts in franchise history, let's remember to pat the coaches on the back for a job well done....and trust me their continuing on the job right now.
Eight days ago Dan Boyle was carted off the ice on a stretcher after a chickenyouknowwhat hit by Blues forward Maxim Lapierre.
Since then there have been four more dangerous head shots and/or dirty hits from behind.
Cody McLeod from the Avalanche runs Nick Kronwall from the Red Wings Michael Grabner from the Islanders catches Nathan Gerbe on the jaw.
Ryan Garbutt's feet leave the ice, (note he didn't leave his feet) and KO's Dustin Penner.
AND .. .tonight I'm watching the Bruins Loui Eriksson being helped off the ice after getting his head snapped by the Sabres John Scott.
Are these guys a wee bit slow on the uptake?
Don't get me wrong I still don't fret and worry or wring my hands about theses poor boys getting hurt or the NHL looking bad or the long term effects of concussions. Callous?
I know but who is more callous and uncaring, me or the meatheads that continue to allow and perpetrate these idiotic hits?
It's not the Head Honchos in the NHL's offices who are at fault.
I believe that 100% of the blame should be placed with the players union and it's administrators.
Until the NHLPA members demand that all the union members treat each other with respect, nothing will change and guys will continue to be carted off the ice wondering what day it is and if the day will ever come when they can get back on the ice.
The fires of the fighting in hockey debate were fanned on opening night when George Parros of the Montreal Canadiens fell to the ice face first and was knocked unconscious.
Parros was not hit with a punch. At the time he was in a scrap with Colton Orr. Parros went to throw a punch as Orr was already falling to the ice, Parros missed and his momentum carried him to the ice as his hands were tied up with Orr. Face...meet ice.
So here it comes again. We all expected it but just not this early in the season.
It is a debate that happens very season and it is a debate that has largely initiated by the sports media, in print or as I can tell you from experience radio talk show hosts. If you want to get the phones ringing, just say, " Fighting in Hockey....".
"Hi, Line one".
One of the arguments to keep fighting in hockey is, its always been part of the game. It's always been in the game therefore it belongs is an appeal to antiquity that is a fallacious argument.
Everything evolves including hockey. The game from year to year has changed with new rules and style of play.
The game used to be played 9 on 9.
Goalies weren't allowed to fall to the ice to make a save.
A player couldn't carry the puck over his own blue line, he had to pass it.
Tradition doesn't make something right.
OK on to argument two.
I've never seen the fans walk out during a fight. That is absolutely true. The NHL knows this and until the fans start walking out or stop buying tickets you won't see the league put "Ban Fighting" on the top of it's "To Do" list.
Argument number three is the most compelling argument. In a player poll, February 2012, 98% of the NHLPA said fighting should not be banned.
These are the guys who are out there very night, who understand the risks and don't seem to care. So why should we?
Mind you out of those 98% I wonder how many of them fight on a regular basis.
I would wager that most are more than happy to watch Parros and Orr duke it out night after night but are more Phil Kessel than John Scott.
Every sport and every league , heck life is full of hypocrisy. When it comes to fighting, and the eagerness to make the game safer for players from visors to the much hyped crackdown on head shots, the NHL looks downright silly.
Yup we're going to suspend you 5 games for cracking a guy on the jaw with a shoulder in a split second reaction but you'll only have to sit in the penalty box for five minutes if you drop your gloves and punch your opponent repeatedly in the face.
Yeah that makes total sense.
I have gone back and forth on fighting in hockey. I used to like it, I used to be a regular in dropping the gloves playing Sr. hockey back home. I believed it was needed.
That changed as I got older and when Don Sanderson a 21 year old playing for the Whitby Dunlops in Ontario died in a fight when he fell and his head struck the ice.
What more does anyone need to know to fight against fighting.
However my anti fighting stance was met with hostility from almost every level of the game. Coaches, Managers, colleagues, fans and players. Now my concern for the players has turned to apathy.
I am indifferent to the noise. However I am not to the future. I believe that with the way the game is going. With the players getting bigger and stronger that one day there will be a catastrophic ending to another fight in the NHL.
Then the entire league will react but in most reactions it will come too late for somebody.
For years now I have been contemplating a career change. I have a yearning to coach again. I believe coaches are always coaches, no matter how long they are behind the bench or how long they have been away.
I have talked to my family about it and they are very supportive. I have talked to several of my closest friends and allies in hockey and they have all urged me to jump back into the coaching ranks again.
But, here is the conundrum. I really love what I do and the people I work with. Next to playing, coaching is the best, next to coaching you can't beat broadcasting hockey. Especially if its Sharks Hockey and on Comcast Sportsnet California.
I work for two great organizations. I have been with the Sharks for the better part of twenty years. I have had the great fortune of working with a wonderful group of people who I consider gifted professionals and outstanding human beings.
My second group of co-workers are from Comcast. A like-minded gang that may have our quirks but when it's time to put on a first class NHL broadcast, they are as good as it gets.
He is known as Dan, Danny Boy, Dano or Rusi (pronounced ROO Z) by his partner and great friend Jamie Baker. He will now be known as a Hall of Famer as our good friend, Dan Rusanowsky will be inducted into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame.
For 22 years Danny has been the only radio voice for the San Jose Sharks. He did miss a handful of games in 2000 when on game day he was in a serious car accident just a block from the rink.
Dan was seriously injured and had to have surgery to save his life. The story goes that after the game in which the Sharks lost to the New Jersey Devils, then Sharks Coach Daryl Sutter went to see Dan in the hospital.
Dan was out of emergency surgery and quite groggy and out of it, but managed to ask "Big D" who won.
Daryl reported that the Devils won 3-2, to which Danny replied with an expletive of disappointment in a slurred medical stupor.
That in a nutshell is Dan. I'm 100% sure that during his life saving surgery the Doctors were amazed that his entire insides were teal in color. He is professional, hard working and prepared. He is one of the best in the NHL, but to his core, he is a San Jose Shark.
Now, my friend Danny Boy does have some humorous qualities.
For example he has quite possibly the messiest desk on the planet. Although some say a messy desk is a sign of genius, but one of these days I'm going to turn on the TV and Dan and his desk will be featured on "Hoarders".
On roadtrips he carries two identical suitcases. One with his clothes one over flowing with the tools of his trade. Microphones, cords, media and league guides, his omnipresent four color bic pens and God knows what else.
Speaking of God, Lord help you if you are in range when Dan is moving those suitcases around the plane. I call him the "Samsonite Samuari." The man is deadly.
On the plane after a game he gets right to work. His trusty computer gets a workout. He has a spreadsheet that he updates every Sharks stat and has been doing so for as long as I've known him.
The funny thing about that is during longer flights Randy and I will look over and our boy will be asleep hands still on the keyboard. It never fails.
For fun when we roll into a town for a road game Danny will throw out some random players name from that team's past.
For example if you're sitting beside him on the bus and you are rolling down Richards Street in Vancouver. Dan will lean toward and in a low tone murmur, "Orland Kurtenbach" or "Dennis Ververgaert."
Nothing else, no add ons, just some random player.
Again, he is bank, it never fails.
Despite his peccadilloes, Dan never fails to deliver. On and off the air. He is knowledgeable, insightful, entertaining and passionate.
I started my second NHL career as a broadcaster with Dan. He taught me importance of preparation and working at the craft.
He gave me the recorder and let me go out and get the player quotes and clips at the morning skate, a great exercise.
Dan didn't allow me to hide in the background. He made me become a broadcaster and not a former coach behind the microphone.
I couldn't have had a better teacher to build my broadcasting foundation.
Off the air Dan is a sweet and loyal friend. He is the first to offer a ride, a room to stay, (with "I've got room").
A helping hand in anything. He is just a good guy, with a great heart.
Besides his wife he loves nothing more than, the Sharks and Sharks fans. He loves meeting fans, talking Sharks hockey and telling hockey stories. He has an impeccable memory and can recall a story, a game or a play from his 22 years as the Radio Voice of the Sharks.
The bottom line is Dan Rusanowsky is a one of a kind. A one of a kind broadcaster and one of a kind person.
I'm so happy he is the one from our broadcast team being honoured for all he has done for our favourite team.
Good on ya, Danny Boy!
Some numbers and stats courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau and the NHL.
A few of my own thoughts in there as well.
Somewhere Maple Leafs Fans are smiling...
- The Blackhawks scored twice in a 17-second span in the last 1:16 to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory. Bryan Bickell tied the game at 18:44, followed by the Stanley Cup-winning goal by Dave Bolland at 19:01.
- Bolland recorded the latest Stanley Cup-winning goal ever tallied in regulation time. Before Bolland, the latest a Cup-winning goal was scored was by Boston’s Bill Carson in 1929 (18:02, third period) in a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers. The Bruins swept the Rangers 2-0 in the best-of-three series.
- The Blackhawks became the first club to win a Stanley Cup-clinching game in regulation time by overcoming a one-goal deficit in the final two minutes.
- The Blackhawks are just the third club in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup-clinching game it had trailed in the final five minutes of regulation and the first to do so in regulation time. In 1944, Montreal scored twice in the final five minutes of regulation to force overtime and defeated Chicago 5-4 at 9:12 of extra time on a goal by Toe Blake (Game 4). In 1951, Toronto scored at 19:28 to tie Montreal 2-2 before Bill Barilko’s Cup-winning tally at 2:53 of overtime (Game 5).
- The Blackhawks became the fifth club of the 2013 postseason to win a game it had trailed with 90 or fewer seconds remaining in regulation. Chicago was the only one of the five to win the game in regulation.
During the playoffs all Sharks broadcasters are guests on a plethora of radio sports shows in Canada and the United States to talk about the team.
I am no different. I have a weekly spot on KNBR with the great Tom Tolbert and I do a ton of interviews on various shows.
The day after the Sharks lost to the Los Angeles Kings, I was on Hockey Night In Canada Radio. The host played a few clips from Todd McLellan, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture.
He then introduced me with, "...another year, another lack of a Stanley Cup for the San Jose Sharks."
I started to laugh and asked the host if he introduced somebody from the St Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks or the Toronto Maple Leafs like that.
To back up his argument he then tossed in the word that sets me off, "underachieving."
I did control myself better than I have in the past. In other words, it wasn't a Ray Ratto vs Drew Remenda battle.
Are the Sharks an underachieving playoff team?
As in winning the Stanley Cup. Obviously, yes we have not been able to win the ultimate prize in the NHL.
However, in 16 playoff appearances in 21 years, I can only think of two times the Sharks "underachieved" and this year sure as hell wasn't one of them.
Since the 2000-2001 season, only the Detroit Redwings have won more playoff games than the Sharks in the Western Conference.
So why do the so-called sports experts keep calling the Sharks a playoff disappointment?
It's because we set the bar very high. The team has one goal every year. To compete for and win the Stanley Cup.
Doug Wilson says that setting the bar high is something he will never apologize for and he shouldn't have to.
This year, the team overcame adversity. Saw good friends and teammates traded. Came together and competed as hard and as well as any Sharks team in the past.
Losing a seven game series where the Sharks played with heart, passion and sacrifice isn't something to apologize for, it's something to be proud of and something that inspires.