News, Notes and Hockey Insights - 3/14/2012
--With just over three weeks remaining in the NHL regular season it appears we are primed to see an exciting roller coaster of a playoff race. In the west, seeds 7 through 11 are separated by just one point. Good new for Sharks fans is the fact that the club seems to be playing better, having just taken three of a possible points in western Canada. But for the Sharks and others in the west…playoff hockey is already here. As Drew Remenda likes to say, hockey is all about momentum. In my mind Nashville has momentum and will be very tough to beat in the west. They are well coached, have sneaky good depth, solid defense and perhaps the best goalie in the world in Pekka Rinne.
--Where did the St. Louis Blues come from? After a slow start that cost Davis Payne his job, the Blues, under Ken Hitchcock has become almost unbeatable. In hockey there’s will and there’s skill. The Blues have both, and their consistent work ethic and great energy has them first in the West. They’re a young team just now seeing success. It will be interesting to see what they can do in the playoffs.
--Tomorrow night the eyes of the hockey world will be focused on New York’s Madison Square Garden. It’s the latest return to the Pittsburgh lineup by Sidney Crosby. The ‘kid’ has appeared in just eight games this season, chalking up two goals and 10 assists. Injuries, specifically concussions have plagued the NHL superstar. I’m concerned that one more hard hit to the head could finish Sid’s career. He’s already had a remarkable career, with a Stanley Cup, an Olympic gold medals and a host NHL post-season awards. If Crosby is concussed again, he’ll have to start thinking about retirement. At a certain point his quality of life must take precedent over hockey. He’s still a very young man and I’d hate to see him suffer with after affects for the rest of his life.
In other sports we’ve seen promising careers end way before they should have. By age 22 Red Sox outfielder Tony Conigliaro had already slugged 100 home runs, but on August 18th of 1967 Tony was hit in the head by a Jack Hamilton fastball. He missed the rest of that season and all of the next. In 1969 he tried comeback but continued to have vision problems and was forced to retire. Another baseball career cut short was that of the Tigers’ Mark Fidrych. In 1976 ‘The Bird’ amazed and amused fans from coast to coast. He went 19-9, started the All-Star game and was selected the American League’s Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Award winner. During training camp of 1977, Fidrych damaged his knee and was never the same. Lastly, how good would Bo Jackson have been in football and/or baseball if he had not severely injured his hip? Be careful Mr. Crosby.
--Last Saturday the Sharks were in Phoenix and it gave me time for pause. The Coyotes have had a tough stretch with ownership, fan support and the location of their arena. Phoenix has a very competitive team on the ice. With the Sharks in town for an important Pacific Division battle, the fans came out in droves. It was a sell-out on a beautiful Saturday evening. Talking to some folks close to the team, they claim the weekend games are very well attended. It’s the weekday games that don’t draw. The biggest problem seems to be the fact that Jobbing.com Arena is some 45 minutes from the majority of their fan base. I hope there is a way the Coyotes can make it work in the valley of the sun. Sadly time may be running out.
--Ever been to a Sharks road game? I’ve been on several ‘sports vacations’ and it was a blast. I would suggest you think about taking one to see the Sharks in the coming years. Best cities in my opinion are Chicago, New York and any of the Canadian cities. Best NHL arena goes to Minnesota, Toronto and MSG in the big apple.
--Remember when you were young and you could make friends in just a few minutes on the playground? Hockey players in many ways are like kids. The recent deal with Colorado saw TJ Galiardi and Daniel Winnik uproot their lives to join the Sharks. It only took a day or two to see TJ and Daniel, clowning around with their new team mates, like they’ve been friends forever.