Miami–the lesser of two evils?
For the most part, I have been disgusted by this year’s edition of the tournament to determine the winner of the Stanley Cup, which, in case you might know, is the large silver trophy presented to the champion of the National Hockey League
The playoff system which has been in effect since 2013-14 SUCKS. IT SUCKS! Beavis and Butt-Head would be having a field day ridiculing this format, one which places way too much emphasis on so-called rivalries and fails to reward regular season excellence.
The Montreal Canadiens were nowhere to be found in this year’s playoffs. On the other hand, I realized how bad Les Habitants would be, and that hockey’s most storied franchise is undergoing a massive rebuild, the likes of which it has never undertaken. Montreal has won the Stanley Cup 23 times, by far the most of any franchise, but not since 1993, the last time a Canadian franchise won it.
The only good thing about the 2023 playoffs? The Maple Leafs won their first playoff series since 2004, defeating the odious Tampa Bay Lightning in six games in the first round. Sadly, the Leafs laid an egg in the next round, losing in five to the Florida Panthers, including three losses in Toronto.
For some reason, road teams win a lot more in the NHL playoffs than they do in the NBA or NFL.
The Panthers won the Eastern Conference last night, completing a four-game sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes.
I can’t stand any NHL teams which play in southern states. I would have been opposed to the NHL placing a team in New Orleans (even if I would have gone to a few games), because hockey doesn’t belong in cities where you can wear shorts to games year-round.
However, the Panthers playing for the Stanley Cup instead of the Hurricanes is by far the lesser of two evils. Here’s why:
The Florida Panthers have always been the Florida Panthers since their entry into the NHL in 1993.
The Carolina Hurricanes were once the Hartford Whalers, a team which was strongly supported even though the franchise was usually one of the worst in the NHL after they joined the league from the World Hockey Association in 1979.
I can (begrudgingly) accept a team which has been in Miami (technically, Sunrise) since day one. At least they didn’t rob another city of the NHL, besides taking a spot which could have been put to better use than to have a second team in Florida (the Lightning debuted the year before the Panthers).
I cannot, and will never, accept a franchise which moves from a city which loves hockey as much as Hartford and move to a place where you cannot play hockey outdoors at any point of the year.
Worse, the franchise moved from Connecticut to a place where basketball will always be king. The Hurricanes share the RBC Center with North Carolina State, which may not be thought of in the same breath as Duke and North Carolina, but true students of college basketball know just how important the Wolfpack have been to the growth of the game. Anyone who doesn’t know the story of Jim Valvano and the 1983 Wolfpack which came from nowhere and slayed the mighty Phi Slamma Jamma, the Houston team which featured (H)Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexel, needs a refresher course.
The Whalers, who began life as the New England Whalers when the WHA formed in 1972, played in Boston during their first two seasons, but struggled to find available dates at the Boston Garden, where the Celtics and Bruins were obviously a much higher priority, and other small arenas around the Hub. The franchise moved to Hartford in 1974, but was forced to return to Massachusetts–this time, Springfield–when the roof of the Hartford Civic Center collapsed from a heavy snowstorm in early 1978.
When the NHL and WHA finally agreed to a “merger” in 1979, the Bruins were vehemently opposed to the Whalers joining the NHL, but president John Ziegler insisted the franchise be part of any agreement, since the Whalers were the only remaining WHA team in the United States which was on sound financial footing. Boston was given a concession when the Whalers were forced to drop “New England” and change to “Hartford”.
The Edmonton Oilers, Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets were the other three WHA teams taken into the NHL. The Birmingham Bulls and Cinicnnati Stingers were forced to disband.
The “merger” was more like the NHL holding the four WHA teams hostage. Each WHA team could protect only four players, with all other players’ rights reverting to their original NHL teams. Also, the Whalers, Oilers, Jets and Nordiques were placed at the bottom of the 1979 NHL entry draft.
Fortunately for the Oilers, they were able to protect Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, two of the cornerstones of their dynasty of the 1980s.
The Whalers created some excitement in their first NHL season when Mister Hockey himself, Gordie Howe, played with sons Mark and Marty. Also, former NHL standouts Dave Keon and Bobby Hull were part of that 1979-80 club, one which finished below .500 and was swept out of the playoffs in three games.
Hartford soon sank to the bottom of the NHL, where they had a permanent lease alongside the equally pitiful Colorado Rockies (New Jersey Devils starting in 1982-83), and later, the Pittsburgh Penguins, with the Jets, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks, and two of the NHL’s Original Six, the Red Wings and Maple Leafs, rotating in from time to time.
The Whalers won one playoff series in their 18 NHL seasons in Hartford, sweeping the Nordiques in the first round in 1986.
The beginning of the end for the franchise was a one-two punch.
The first was the NHL’s hiring of Gary Bettman as commissioner in 1993. Bettman was a high-ranking NBA official, and helped guide David Stern’s grandiose plans to turn the league into a global powerhouse, which it has become.
In 1988, the NBA expanded for the first time under Stern to Charlotte and Miami.
Bettman soon followed Stern’s lead, placing expansion teams in San Jose, Tampa, Miami and Anaheim from 1991 through 1993, plus allowing the Minnesota North Stars to move to Dallas and become the Dallas Stars.
Hartford’s second gut punch came during the 1994 lockout, when Peter Karmanos bought the franchise. Soon thereafter, Karmanos demanded a new facility from the state of Connecticut, or he would move the team to a southern locale.
Bettman had to be salivating over another southern city getting the NHL.
Sadly for Whaler fans, Connecticut’s governor at the time, John Rowland, deluded himself and many others in Hartford the state could attract the New England Patriots away from Foxborough, where they had played since 1971. Therefore, Rowland was focused only on the NFL, not on the NHL.
Prior to the 1996-97 season, Karmanos screwed Hartford good by demanding fans buy 11,500 tickets or else lose the team. Karmanos made this next to impossible by (a) raising ticket prices 20 percent, (b) eliminating all partial season plans, meaning it was all 41 home games or bust, and (c) raising the deposit required to hold the season ticket by 750 percent.
Karmanos’ strategy from day one was to go south, and he announced the Whalers were leaving in the summer of 1997, even though there was no agreement with a new location.
North Carolina turned out to be the new home of the Whalers. The team would be renamed the Hurricanes, play two seasons in Greensboro, then move into the new arena in Raleigh under construction for NC State.
Hockey in a state where basketball, NASCAR and the NFL (thanks to the Panthers) would always be the most popular sports was, and still is, very stupid.
I vomited when the Hurricanes defeated the Oilers for the 2006 Stanley Cup. I was queasy when the Hurricanes made the 2002 final, but thank God the Red Wings stopped them. I will throw up again when the Hurricanes make it back to the final.
Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about that this year. The Panthers are far from my favorite, but they’ve never been anywhere but South Florida, and they didn’t take away a team from someone else, so they’re much more palatable than the Hurricanes.
The Panthers did the right thing Wednesday by picking up the Prince of Wales Trophy, awarded to the Eastern Conference champion.
This bullshit about not picking up a conference championship trophy has to stop. I find it asinine a team wins 12 playoff games, is rewarded for it, then says “nah, we don’t want the award” because supposedly “the Stanley Cup is all that there is”.
I was disgusted when the Blues reached the final in 2019 and refused to handle the Clarence Campbell Bowl, given to the Western Conference champion. Your first final in 49 years and you don’t give a damn? That trophy was quite an accomplishment, given the Blues had the worst record in the NHL at Thanksgiving 2018 and fired coach Mike Yeo.
Thankfully, in recent years, more teams have seen fit to handle the conference championship trophies.
Sidney Crosby has been captain of four Penguin teams to reach the final. He didn’t pick it up in 2008, and his team lost to the Red Wings. He picked it up in 2009, and the Stanley Cup was soon back in Pittsburgh for the first time in since 1992. Crosby repeated this in 2016 and 2017, and each time, the Penguins ended up winning the grand prize.
(Mario Lemieux picked up the Prince of Wales Trophy each time the Penguins won the Wales Conference championship in 1991 and ’92. Pittsburgh won the Cup each time.)
As much as I can’t stand Alex Ovechkin, at least he didn’t treat the Prince of Wales Trophy like it had a deadly disease when the Capitals reached the 2018 Finals. He picked it up and skated it with his happy teammates. Washington went on to defeat Vegas for the Cup.
When the Lightning won the East in 2015, captain Steven Stamkos didn’t even LOOK at the Prince of Wales Trophy. Tampa lost in the Finals to Chicago.
Stamkos reversed course each of the previous three seasons, electing to pick up the trophy after the Lightning clinched a berth in the Finals. Tampa won the Cup in 2020 (vs. Dallas) and 2021 (vs. Montreal) before losing in 2022 vs. Colorado.
The Golden Knights and Stars are going to overtime in Dallas. The home team must win or Vegas hosts Florida to open the Finals next week. If Vegas wins in Dallas, it will be interesting to see if it picks up the Campbell Bowl. If Vegas has to go home and win a Game 5 Saturday, I’m sure it will pick the trophy up in front of the home fans, much like the Panthers did.
Again, sorry for going so long without posting and going on and on about a hockey team which hasn’t existed since 1997. Don’t give me the bullshit about the Hurricanes being the current incarnation of the Whalers. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a lie.
Not jamming with jalapenos, plus the dread of a Sharks-Hurricanes Stanley Cup fina
What is America’s obsession with jalapeño flavored stuff? I understand japalenos on Mexican dishes–even though I don’t like japalenos on my nachos, tacos or enchiladas–and jalapeño poppers at fast food and fast casual restaurants such as Sonic and Buffalo Wild Wings, but it has gone overboard.
Case in point: jalapeño flavored M&Ms.
Just the thought of it makes me want to throw up.
Since when do chocolate and jalapeño go together?
M&Ms has come out with three new flavors, and stores across the country, including Kansas City, Salina and Hays, have large displays featuring them.
English toffee is delicious. I bought a bag at the grocery store in Hays a few minutes ago. Heath and 5th Avenue, both of which feature toffee, are among my favorite chocolate bars. Heath pieces used to be the only kind of candy I would get in a Dairy Queen Blizzard, although I’ve expanded my tastes to include many other flavors.
Thai Coconut? Mixed emotions. If it were just coconut, I would dive right in, because Mounds, which is dark chocolate and coconut, is another of my favorite candy bars. But the “Thai” part concerns me. I can eat the Thai curry wings at Buffalo Wild Wings, but many times, Thai is very hot. I’ll pass unless someone else offers them to me.
Jalapeño? Don’t get me started.
No. No way. I’m not touching that one with a four-meter pole.
My mother might like jalapeno M&Ms. She is a sucker for anything jalapeno. My father, however, has much more sense and avoids jalapenos on anything except nachos at a restaurant.
The craze to put out jalapeno flavored anything is similar to the sriracha craze of five years ago. Buffalo Wild Wings had a sriracha-flavored sauce out for a limited time in 2014, and I told Liz or Lisa or whomever was taking care of me to make sure I didn’t get stupid and order it. I didn’t.
I flat refuse to order anything with sriracha or jalapeno. I also will not touch the mango habanero sauce at Buffalo Wild Wings. I tried it once six years ago and swore NEVER AGAIN. I also tried the hottest sauce at BWW in 2008, and I said NEVER AGAIN. I can take heat, but not ridiculous amounts.
The NHL is down to its last four teams in quest of the Stanley Cup.
I said after the first round I was hoping for a Bruins-Blues final. That is still a possibility.
Boston plays Carolina in the East and St. Louis faces San Jose in the West, with the winners matching up for the most treasured prize in North American professional sports.
I’d like to see the Blues reach the finals for the first time since 1970 for my two friends who love the Blues, Larry and Lisa. I’m not a fan of Boston’s sports teams, but I can tolerate the Bruins much more than most NHL teams, since they are an Original Six team.
San Jose? The Sharks are the reason why the Minnesota North Stars left for Dallas, so I have a natural disgust for them.
The Gund brothers became majority owners of the North Stars in 1978 after their franchise, the Cleveland Barons, were forced to merge with the North Stars by then-NHL president John Ziegler, since both were teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. Ziegler was unwilling to abandon Minnesota, the most hockey-mad state in America, and frankly, neither were the NHL’s Board of Governors. After all, the North Stars were still drawing strong despite some very bad teams in the 1970s, while the Barons couldn’t draw flies during two seasons in northeast Ohio.
Now how does this tie into the Bay Area? The Barons originally began life as the Oakland Seals during the 1967 expansion which brought the North Stars, Blues, Penguins, Flyers and Kings into the NHL as well. The Seals were mismanaged throughout their nine seasons in northern California, at one point falling under the ownership of gigantic douchebag Charles O. Finley, the same many who screwed Kansas City royally by turning the Athletics into a clown show before moving them to Oakland after the 1967 season.
The Gunds became majority owners of the merged North Stars-Barons franchise, and by the late 1980s, they were itching to get out of the Twin Cities.
They did so by selling the North Stars to another turd, Norman Green, and Ziegler and Board of Governors granted the Gunds an expansion team, the Sharks, which played their first two seasons at the Cow Palace in the San Francisco suburb of Daly City before what is known colloquially as the “Shark Tank” opened in 1993. (Ironically, many in San Jose are scared the Sharks will move to San Francisco when the new arena built for the Warriors opens later this year, but that’s not likely).
Green was disillusioned by the North Stars’ home, the Met Center in suburban Bloomington, a stone’s throw from the former home of the Twins and Vikings, Metorpolian Stadium, which was vacated in 1981 and torn down in 1985 to make way for the Mall of America.
Of course, Green did what any piece of feces owner does, he begged the taxpayers of Minnesota to build him a new arena. When the people of Minnesota said no, he took the franchise to that noted hockey hotbed, Dallas, which was desperate to have a winning franchise, since the Mavericks were the worst team in the NBA at that time, several years before sugar daddy Mark Cuban cam on the scene
The same stubbornness of Minnesota voters nearly cost the state its other three franchises.
The Timberwolves were all set to move to New Orleans in 1994 before David Stern blocked the deal due to the shady finances of the ownership group who wanted to move the franchise from the headwaters of the Mississippi River to its mouth. The Minnesota legislature approved major improvements to the Target Center, and the Timberwolves have never threatened to leave Minnesota since.
The Twins were all but set to be contracted by Bud Selig following the 2001 season. Carl Pohlad, who owned the franchise at the time, was all but willing to give up and take the money. But the state said no, and courts within the state blocked MLB from contracting any team. The voters of Minnesota were chastened, and in 2010, Target Field opened.
The Vikings were all but gone to Los Angeles in the middle of the 2000s. Even though the Metrodome was built for them, not the Twins, they complained long and loud once Target Field opened, and the carping became worse after the Metrodome’s roof collapsed in December 2010, forcing the Vikings to move two home games (one to Detroit, one to the University of Minnesota). The Vikings got their new stadium three years ago, and it has already hosted Super Bowl LII and the 2019 Final Four.
I’m not a fan of California hockey. On the other hand, I can understand why the NHL wants to be in the Bay Area, given its population and disposable income. Plus, the Kings needed an in-state rival, although the Ducks came along two years later and gave the Kings one much, much closer to home.
As for the Hurricanes, I hate that the Hartford Whalers, who had the second best logo in all of professional sports (behind the Milwaukee Brewers’ “ball-in-glove’) left for a place which knew absolutely zilch about hockey, a place where it is impossible to play hockey outdoors (except in the winter in the far western part of North Carolina which is colder due to the higher elevation of the Appalachians), a place where anyone who isn’t following basketball during the winter is, frankly, out to lunch.
Fred Demarest, someone I knew from LSU and someone I like a lot, is an associate athletic director at North Carolina State. He has ditched the Devils, the team he grew up following in New Jersey and at William Paterson College, for the Hurricanes. I’ve had to chide him about this. I can understand him wanting to support the team which plays in the place he lives, but the HURRICANES? The slimy Hurricanes, who left Hartford despite strong support?
I do not believe hockey belongs in the south. NO. St. Louis and Washington is as far south as it should extend. I don’t care if Dallas/Fort Worth has 10 million people in the area. NO. And why does it belong in Raleigh, where Duke and North Carolina are king and always will be?
I was nauseous when Dallas won the Stanley Cup in Buffalo in 1999 on a goal which shouldn’t have counted. I was apoplectic when Tampa Bay won the Cup in 2004, and again when Carolina won it in 2006.
If it’s San Jose and Carolina in the finals, I will really be sick to my stomach. Boston and San Jose? GO BRUINS. St. Louis vs. either Eastern team? GO BLUES.
I was scared the Bucks were going to choke it away after losing to Boston by 22 points on their home floor almost two weeks ago.
Milwaukee hasn’t lost since, and now it is in the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2001, and only the third time since last reaching the NBA Finals in 1974.
Rest in peace, John Havlicek, I’m sorry I didn’t get to see you play when you were doing your thing with the Celtics.
The Bucks, who won 116-91 last night to clinch the series vs. Boston in five, plays either Toronto or Philadelphia in the next round. Milwaukee has a bad history in the playoffs against the 76ers, but in many of the previous series between the clubs, the Bucks were the underdog.
My good friend Bill Franques and I are huge Bucks fans. He remembered the 1974 finals, in which the Bucks won Game 6 in double overtime in the Boston Garden on a skyhook by Kareem in the closing seconds, only to lose 102-87 in Game 7 at Milwaukee. That left Bill with a strong antipathy for the Celtics. I don’t have such an antipathy for the Celtics, but I badly wanted the Bucks to win this series.
Just had a Boston Celtics trivia question at Golden Q. It regarded Moses Malone and his stupid comment during the 1981 Finals, which he said after the Rockets won Game 4 91-86 that he could get four guys off the street from his hometown of Petersburg, Virginia and beat the Celtics.
Alrighty then. The Rockets weren’t going to beat Bird, Tiny Archibald and Robert Parish with the team they had, which was Malone, ancient Calvin Murphy and Rudy Tomjanovich, spare parts (Mike Dunleavy, Billy Paultz, Tom Henderson), a servicable player who would never emerge into stardom (Robert Reid), so what made him think lesser men could do it?
Five years later, the Rockets had a better team, led by Ralph Sampson and Hakeem (then Akeem) Olajuwon. But the Celtics were far better; they still had Bird and Parish, but Kevin McHale had emerged into a star, and Bill Walton enjoyed his best season since leading Portland to the 1977 championship. It would take a few years and more favorable matchups before the Rockets won titles in 1994 (the year NBC idiotically cut away from coverage of Game 5 of the NBA Finals except in Houston and New York to show a washed up football player fleeing from the authorities on the freeways of Los Angeles) and ’95.
Less than two years later, Malone was in Philadelphia, and two years after his ill-timed comment, he, Dr. J, Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney steamrolled the Knicks, Bucks and Lakers as the 76ers won their first NBA Title since coach Billy Cunningham played for the team in 1967, so it all worked out for Moses. Rest in peace, big guy.
The Brewers have won five in a row. Life is good in Wisconsin. Will the Packers oblige? Still have four months to find out.
Sorry for yet another novella. I do that sometimes. No, make that more than sometimes.