No bets on the Jets

I’m not cheering for the Winnipeg Jets.

There, I said it.

But with that, let me clarify. There are a lot of players that I like on the Jets. Bryan Little, Evander Kane, Alexander Burmistrov, Chris Mason, Mark Scheifele of course…they’ve all been fun to watch on the ice and a pleasure to deal with off of it. I’d like to see them do well.

And it’s not even that I want the team to do poorly. It’s just that I have no greater wish of their success than I had a year ago when they were in Atlanta.

Moving a franchise to another market doesn’t make me a fan of their team. While I’m happy that Winnipeg has an NHL team again (they’ve had an IHL/AHL one for quite some time, so it’s not like there was no hockey to be had), they fall into the same category as every other Canadian squad. I see no reason to cheer for a team based on their locale.

The simple argument would be to state that being a Canadian team doesn’t necessarily make it so. As in, their premier players aren’t always Canadian. If you think of the most influential players over the past decade on Vancouver, Toronto, or Ottawa, typically, it’s been the Swedes. Montreal has had a pretty large European influence, and even Calgary’s top netminder for the past 7+ years is from Finland. Why not cheer instead for a squad like the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning, an almost exclusively Canadian group that won Dave Andreychuk a well-deserved Stanley Cup?

But it’s really not as easy as that. Some of my favourite players aren’t “good old Canadian boys” and other than the Toronto Maple Leafs (I’ve been a realistic Leafs fan for a long time, which means I really haven’t thought of the possibility of a Stanley Cup since 2002), my teams of choice (Buffalo, Los Angeles, San Jose) are American. I like various other things about those teams, their systems, longevity, excitement factor, even their broadcast teams (remember what it is that I do).

Is that unpatriotic of me to cheer against Montreal, or Ottawa, or Winnipeg? Ask any true Habs fans you know if they would ever cheer for the Leafs. A Toronto loss is almost as good as an Ottawa victory for Sens fans, particularly during the first half of the last decade. I can’t even believe the number of Jets fans that chirp supporters of other Canadian clubs, when they’ve inherited a franchise that has yet to win a playoff game, and when their former incarnation advanced to the second round just once, during an era where showing up to all of your games on time was practically enough merit to make the post-season.

In fact, I’d like to look at things in a different way. If you’re indeed a fan of hockey and the NHL, wouldn’t it be good to have increased success in less developed, American markets? I’m not saying that places like Dallas or Raleigh are going to put up the numbers or have the interest of Canadian cities a fraction of their size. However, the Stanley Cup victories in both cities created some interest, and while it’s gone down since then, there are still more fans – and more important, kids playing hockey – in both places than there was before the success. That’s ultimately going to increase hockey’s footprint more than another Canadian team in a region that already has passionate hockey fans.

It’s nice that Winnipeg has a team again, and it’s not too difficult up here to ignore the small but loyal group of die-hard hockey fans in Atlanta who are upset about losing their squad. But if you decide to cheer for a team simply because they’re Canadian, then you’re really missing something there.

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Old School Hockey Pool, 2011 edition

This past Sunday, I had my big hockey draft of the year. I’ll participate in a number of pools in different sports, but the Old School Hockey Pool (as it is known now) is always different. For one, it’s the longest-running league that I’ve been a part of. We started in 1998, but after some dodgy stat category changes mid-season, my friend Sean took it over and we’ve probably done this for about 11 years now. I don’t typically do money pools, since my sporting knowledge and gambling strategies don’t always see eye to eye. This is the only one I do.

It’s also significant because it’s the only one where we conduct a live draft, in person. I look forward to it every year, even though I didn’t actually finish my list until I got back from the Barrie Colts game late Saturday night. The rules are simple enough:
2 pts. for a goal, 1 for an assist. Game-winner, PPG and SHG are worth bonus points.
Goalies get 2 pts. for a win and 3 for a shutout.
Each team selects (in order) 6 forwards, 3 defencemen, a goalie, and a bench player (which is the only time that you can pick someone from any position.

This year, I decided to keep a running log on the festivities. This is what I came up with:

1052 am – I show up, a good 8 minutes ahead of when the draft is scheduled for and 13 minutes early by my standard time. Somehow, I’m the first one there. At least it means I get the prime laptop position.

1100 – With a couple more people having arrived, the big question comes up…what does Dustin Byfuglien count as? We argue about someone drafting him as a fwd and keeping him there, but ultimately, it’s decided that he’ll be a defenceman, and just a defenceman. Whew. I had him at #1.

1110 – Still only 3 of the 10 people drafting live are here. So much for punctuality.

1111 – Last year’s champion Price shows up – in a suit. Looks like last year’s victory has gotten to his head.

1114 – Still only 5 of us here. Seriously? Peter B showed up on time, and he’s got a wife and a kid.

1115 – We start our remote linkups. Sean has his cousins from New York on one computer, and Josh is hooked up from Vancouver on my screen, right next to Sean’s. How we’ll hear anything, I have no idea.

1117 – I’m also trying to set up my fantasy football roster, while drafting, remotely chatting, and keeping track of a couple of lists. I can’t ever do just one thing at a time anymore. It’s a disease.

1119 – Sean gives us the important pre-draft speech: no downloading torrents on his limited bandwidth. I plan to have the entire 8 seasons of Entourage on my computer by the time this draft ends.

1122 – Matt is now going through the computers he can see (and perhaps hack into) on his laptop. Looks like I’m going to have to share Entourage with him.

1126 – Goldberg informed me that he’s going to the washroom. If I were a jerk, I’d look over his hidden lists. But of course I won’t. I have two absentees’ lists if I really need to.

1128 – It’ll be interesting to see if anyone takes Byfuglien as a fwd. I have my suspicions on who might, but I hope no one does.

1129 – As per usual, I pick the names out of the hat for the draft order. I’m dressed far too modestly for this job.

1130 – Gray gets first pick, to a chorus of boos. You don’t even need to prep for that one!

1132 – I pick 15th of 15. I’m already trying to get out of this pick. Although, drafting back to back three times will allow me to take more notes on the draft. It also has me drafting someone I really don’t want to with my first pick. I’m interested to see how deep my list goes.

1134 – Gray’s first pick is Stamkos. Good call.

1135 – We have our first official snafu, two picks in. Sean selects Corey Perry for Warren (list sent) off of Peter A’s list (sent). Since I’m in charge of Warren’s picks, I correct him and give Warren Ovechkin. If those Mr. Big commercials mean anything, Ovie should have about 478 points by the end of this year.

1137 – Josh and I start (out loud) talking trade through my computer. He’s at 7 and wants the back to back picks, and I want to actually get a top-notch guy with this pick. I have Daniel Sedin (gone), Stamkos (gone), Ovie (gone), Malkin and St. Louis as my top 5 and we’ve been through the first 4 picks. If the next guy goes off of my board, I’m doing it.

1139 – The next two picks are Ryan Getzlaf (whose value isn’t as high b/c goals are worth more than assists) and then Sidney Crosby (who has yet to be cleared for contact). Ok, I’m doing it. And I just said it out loud. Guess this isn’t covert anymore.

1140 – I’ve agreed to trade my 6 fwd picks to Josh for his, so we’re just essentially drafting for each other. I go with Malkin.

1144 – We’ve come around to the 15th/16th pick, and while Josh is deciding, everyone only now seems to be aware that we made this trade. Suddenly, there’s a whole brouhaha about it. The move isn’t unprecedented – I swapped defence and goalie picks with Goldberg two years ago so I could move up and get Streit (bad move) and he could get Steve Mason (even worse move). But if anyone can buck the system, it’s Josh. Too bad he can’t make out what everyone is saying.

1146 – Upon further review (and a lot of hate from across the table), it’s eventually decided that the deal can only be for two rounds. Just 15 picks in and I’ve already made a lot of enemies.

1148 – The second injured player gets selected as Ryan Kesler is off the board. Now it’s my 2nd (and only pick at this position) and I debate between Tavares and Nash. I take the latter.

1158 – There goes Semin – who was listed as my last possible first-round pick – in the third round. Glad I didn’t get him at 15.

1159 – Josh gets Loui Eriksson, my best remaining player, with his third round selection. Dammit! That pick should have been mine.

1203 pm – Someone tries to draft a dman. Did he not realize that the past 41 picks were forwards???

1208 – I was actually going to take Kessel this year, but Peter B nabbed him with the pick in front of me. I’ll still get Stastny, but now I have to drop another place on my list. It’s a blast from the past. Ah, what the hey. Jaromir Jagr. It’s been a while since anyone’s drafted him. I hope he grows his mullet back.

1212 – Goel and Kyle start discussing on whether or not to draft a player that has no picture. Are we really that superficial?

1215 – Mike Cammalleri gets taken late in the fourth round. Two years ago, he was selected first overall by a Habs fan. Inexplicably, that team proceeded to finish dead last.

1221 – We’re having intermittent breaks while Sean goes through his list. He’s doing even more than I am. Timbits are being passed around while we wait. All I need is a juice box and I’m set.

1222 – Sean is prefacing every pick with negativity. If we go by what he says, he easily has the most far-reaching, untalented, awful team ever.

1223 – And then he takes Jordan Staal, the first guy not on my list of 110 forwards. Maybe Sean has a point.

1224 – Gray just gave away my next pick. Thanks for mentioning Ribiero, jerk. If someone takes him…

1225 – Kyle asks about Iginla. He went about 45 picks ago. Nice try, buddy.

1228 – I’m getting proxy laughs. It’s probably because they don’t have to deal with me in person.

1231 – Whew, Ribiero is somehow still there. Gray is needling me about the time my picks are taking. If we were Japanese anime characters, he’d be my rival. And I’d be blue, nine feet tall, and have three tails. Take that! (cue victory sign and wink)

1232 – I’m debating between Umberger and Gagne. I look down on my list and don’t like anyone else. I’ll take a reach on Gagne as my sixth forward. At least I can always drop him…

1238 – And then Josh takes Umberger. Josh keeps taking my guys. If either of us win, at least I’ll know that I know my stuff. Of course, if he wants his cash, he’ll have to come in from Vancouver to get it.

1254 – We re-do the order for defencemen and I got last pick, again! How come I can’t pick my own name? Maybe there’s some deeper, psychological reason why. Or maybe it’s because my piece of paper keeps folding into someone else’s.

1257 – Now everyone is doing snaps with their wrists while Matt picks. This could get annoying real fast.

112 – Warren takes Kaberle. Someone asks which one. It’s gotta be Frantisek. Not the one who played for Carolina, his dad. Frantisek Sr. Yeah. That’s who he took.

118 – My top 33 defencemen have been selected. We’re 36 picks in.

121 – With the last pick, I go for another stretch pick – Devils 1st-rounder Adam Larsson. Maybe 5 people know who he is. One forgets what team he’s on.

122 – Sean has a family reunion between the dman and goalie draft pick. He has a lot of family in New York.

124 – I confer with draft guru Goldberg before making my pick. Going between Lundqvist and Luongo, I take the former. Luongo goes next.

128 – Now, conferring becomes popular. I go over Goldberg’s pick with him and Sean’s selection moments after. Both are interested in Price, but I steer them away.

132 – Sean mercifully picks out of the hat for sub players. Finally, I’m not last! Moved up to 11th. Sean picks himself second last.

138 – Matt takes a defenceman in the extra round. Of all of the forwards and goalies available that can out-produce a sub defenceman, I can’t see why.

140 – I’m debating between Voracek and Sergei Kostitsyn until Sean takes a look at my cheat sheet. Now, I take a look at it and realize that Jussi Jokinen is still there as my top pick, so I take him.

141 – Two picks later, Josh selects Patrik Elias, who was actually my top remaining pick.

144 – Peter A’s proxy list selects Ryan Smyth, and the draft is done. Only 2 hours and 15 minutes…save for the half-hour late time.

Final team (in order): Evgeni Malkin, Rick Nash, Peter Stastny, Jaromir Jagr, Mike Ribiero, Simon Gagne, Christian Ehrhoff, Alex Goligoski, Adam Larsson, Henrik Lundqvist, Jussi Jokinen.

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