Category: hockey

Boltsmag.com

NHL coverage and links to my articles from days past at RawCharge.com.

 

Attendance in Tampa Bay sports sides with the might of the Lightning

Tonight is the 20th home game of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2018-19 season, the second-to-last home game event of the year 2018 as well. I’ve already heralded the accomplishments of the Bolts first-half in on-ice achievement. Now let me shed light on an aspect of the Bolts off-ice. Something Tampa Bay sports media gives the brush-off in overall coverage in town.

Amalie Arena’s stated max capacity is 19,204, and the Lightning has filled the building at or near capacity for their 19 games at home so far this season. That’s a home-capacity total attendance of 362,748 (you can view full attendance numbers for the NHL here, via ESPN). That’s a pretty damned solid turnout; the Bolts are 5th in the NHL in attendance.

Now, how ‘bout dem Bucs? The much heralded, over-promoted in Tampa Bay news, over-hyped Tampa Bay Buccaneers team have been meh in their season performance, a 5-10 record. Raymond James Stadium’s max capacity is 65,890 and the Bucs haven’t quite made it to capacity too often. After 7 home games, the Bucs average attendance is 54,567, 82% OF CAPACITY AND fourth weakest in the NFL this season (view the full attendance numbers here). It’s the season total attendance number that’s of most note: 381,971.

The Lightning should meet that attendance total tonight as they host the Philadelphia Flyers. They’ll exceed the total with the final 2018 home game against the Montréal Canadiens on Saturday. The Bucs will, of course, top that number with their final home game against the Atlanta Falcons… But the Lightning will top that total-attendance number early in 2019. C’mon, their averaging 19,000 a game, the finale at Ray Jay will bring 54,000 (give or take). The Bolts will make up that differential in three games at the Amalie.

There are many aspects that can be brought up to factor in with attendance (ticket prices, economy issues), but the one aspect that tops it all: this is common. 41 home dates will do that for an NHL team.  41 home dates will do that. The Lightning are still a dominant presence in the NHL while the Bucs are a dominant topic in Tampa Bay sports media coverage while mediocre in performance.

Alex Ovechkin, Vladimir Putin, and the mired line of sports and politics

I’ve always favored the Washington Capitals Alexander Ovechkin when it comes to the prominent players of the NHL in the last decade. It has to do with character and showing more depth than just being a player. He’s a person and a silly one at that.  And I’m talking off-ice stuff here, not just around-the-game shenanigans common in the NHL.

There’s more than that old commercial out there, but hunting down the off-ice stuff is tough when his hockey things take video priority.

This, his character,  comes chiefly in comparison to Sidney Crosby who has always come off as a stolid, cold figure. Crosby’s biggest feat is inspiring antics from rivals. Like Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban taking a fresh breath into a Stanley Cup Finals game.

As for Ovechkin, things are souring for me somewhat. It’s not because of on-ice incidents or the Capitals in general. It’s not Brayden Point-vs.-Ovechkin in the NHL goal-scoring race. It’s not sports at all. It’s politics and awareness of Ovi’s political allegiance to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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The Lightning storm of the 2018-19 NHL first-half

There are many in-depth details to go through with the Tampa Bay Lightning season so far in the 2018-2019 NHL season; they haven’t even reached the midway point of the regular season but the club in setting records and living at the top… Y’know, they’re a dominant storm.

How dominant? It’s one number that has led to this posting, one number that people would sooner forget or brush off. It’s a number that deep sports fans should be taken aback by, though: A .756 win percentage.

After their 6-3 victory in Edmonton on Saturday, Tampa Bay’s season record is 28-7-2. 28 wins in 37 games played. Now do the math with that win percentage and you see the Lightning are on a pace for 62 wins in 82 games played. That’s one hell of a first half.

Now, the cold-water factor: You can’t and shouldn’t expect things to keep riding this high. Injuries were already overcome early this season but hey could easily thwart things in the months to come. The NHL’s silly-season is forthcoming, where physical play nadc altercations become more regular. That could easily factor in and spoil the party at Amalie Arena.

It also obliterates the franchise record for wins in a season; it’s 12 games better than the 50-win season of 2014-15.

And, of course, this doesn’t mean shit when the playoffs arrive. The proverbial second-season is just that, a second chance to shine for all remaining and contending clubs.

The Bolts last three games of 2018 and the first half of the NHL season are split between Eastern and Western Conference clubs. The Lightning host the Flyers and Les Habitants De Montréal before heading west to California . They’ll face the Anaheim Ducks on New Year’s Eve; something to take in if you’re not in the mood to watch the ball drop or partying with friends.

Louis Domingue has served the Lightning well in a time of backstop need

When Louis Domingue was claimed by the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, I was taken aback because I recalled seeing the goaltender draw attention to himself by way of performances for the Arizona Coyotes. At the time, I thought he was due to become the eventual replacement for ‘Yotes goaltender (and former Bolt) Mike Smith while also stepping into a slot of elitism that former Coyote (and Lightning alumnus) Nikolai Khabibulin once held.

What the hell put Domingue on waivers to begin with is a story I didn’t know. It’s a story I’m not getting into here. I’m getting into the now .…

With the injury to Andrei Vasilevskiy, Dommer has become the Bolts starting netminder. I can’t say everything has been perfect for him in net… in fact, I’ve seen a lot of fan criticism toward him. Comparisons to Marc Denis(who served in net during Lightning 2006-07 and 2007-2008; 54 games total, a tenure-average GAA of 3.62 and a .871 save percentage). That criticism was born in October, well before Vasy’sinjury, with Domingue’s return start and flop against the Coyotes.

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The Tampa Bay Lightning thrives while the Tampa Bay media look elsewhere in sports

Late this summer, before the NFL season was underway, the Tampa Bay Times did the Tampa Bay-media thing and played up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers season ahead. “Most talented offense ever?” discussion before a regular season game had been played seemed like… well, an attempt to raise expectations.

I’m not here to judge the Buccaneer season as it nears a conclusion, I’m here to ask about the Tampa Bay Lightning.

See, with that hype about the Bucs, there hasn’t been the same headline-priority work for the Bolts in the Tampa Bay media, at least not from what I’ve seen. All while the Bolts are doing what counters Tampa Bay college and pro sports teams most of the time: Winning and winning. And winning.

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Reacting to chatter of expanding the NHL playoffs

A season in professional sports is played with the intention of winning a championship. That’s basic sport, ain’t it? You play a regular season with the hope of making it to the proverbial second-season: The playoffs. To make it to the post-season, to contend during the marathon of the regular season, is an accomplishment unto itself, and to go further is the dream.

In the NFL with its short 16 game season, only 12 of the league’s 32 teams make it to the playoffs. In Major League Baseball, after the grueling 162 game season, only eight of the league’s 30 teams make it to the second-season. The NBA and NHL are both 82-game regular season leagues, they’re also passing 16 teams to the playoffs each season. The key difference is the NHL has 31 teams (and soon to be 32) while the NBA has 30.

The NFL and MLB formats make the playoffs a divine achievement by itself. The NBA and NHL have an open format to contention… And there’s talk in the NHL about expanding the contender option.

I cringe at the notion. Read More

The bitterness of politics meets the cold of ice hockey

2018 election year campaign contest… Nikita Kucherov vs. Jack Eichel. Seeing I’m a Kucherov supporter, I’m sharing his ad here.

Just where did Rusty Fedotenko go? I’m glad you asked!!

Personal note: I’ve taken back “Boltsmag”

Just a heads up:

When I started blogging about hockey, the posts were published on Boltsmag.com. Upon me founding Raw Charge, I pointed the domain name at the new SB Nation site. All my archives are posted over there, after all. It’s been set up like that since 2009.

With the two-year anniversary of my resignation from the network and with me posting re-direct links to Raw Charge archived articles I wrote there, I’ve decided to redirect the Boltsmag domain name toward my hockey post category here on JohnnyFonts.com.

I don’t know if anyone even knows of the domain name, let alone uses it. If you do use that domain, this post should explain why you’ve landed on this blog site and not on Raw Charge.

A visit from the 2018-19 NHL season

Twas the night before hockey In old Tampa Bay
With Lightning comes thunder…And sometimes, even rain!
 
The fans were all curious; what on Earth is the plan?
Could success still be found, without the jolly Yzerman?
On the verge was the end of 2018 —
A loss to the Caps brought fans agony
 
But forward they go without that much change
The roster’s success has brought little to complain
 
82 games will write a story, robust
Ending, perhaps, with names etched on The Cup…

That mascot Gritty is now a heralded PR SNAFU

One day after my little piece on that shitty thing called Gritty, I got a PR email regarding the mascot that seems to have a different take on how the public reacted toward Gritty than what really went on. Read More

Philly’s Gritty monstrosity – A fitting declaration for a weak mascot

Mascots and pro sports are a way to rile up the fans in a good way, a caricature personality that associates with a sports team. Some of those mascots are fitting-yet-playful parody characters who embody the franchise, like Roary the Lion with the Detroit Lions of the NFL, Osceola (and his steed, Renegade) with the Florida State University Seminoles. Others are a more playful association, like Mr. Met for the New York Mets or ThunderBug with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

And then there’s what the Philadelphia Flyers unveiled today:

Now, I’m not a Philadelphia sports fan and never have been, I still take the Flyers franchise as a rival to the Tampa Bay Lightning (the Flyes were the Bolts first ever playoff opponent). I’ve never taken much to the 76’ers, or the Eagles, though the Phillies have earned a token appreciation simply by way of where they play spring training. All that said, nothing I’m about to say is intended to slight or put down Philly as a city or a sports town.

That said, what the ever loving hell?? Ugh! Read More

When events lead to self-realization and rolling along while lost at sea

I don’t know what was worse: How the news of Tuesday and the stepping-down of Steve Yzerman laid out one hell of a road bump for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018-19 and the general road ahead… or the realization through that event that I’m not a hockey blogger any more.

No, no, it’s not the words I wrote over the weekend that casts my credibility into doubt (if you differ in opinion, oh well, too bad, so sad) as-so-much my reaction to things, my stepping-up and opening my readiness to comment to other bloggers (supply quotes) and such about the news…and not hearing shit back. It was me drawing a conclusion about Julien BriseBois getting an assistant GM hire on Wednesday and then finding out (from fans) that wasn’t in the plans and it had been stated in articles and in tweets from members of the media.

The guy who had been the original blogger of Tampa Bay Lightning hockey, lasting for 12 years while founding SB Nation site Raw Charge in the process, was ready to roll and yet so very, very out of the loop.

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A word to summarize the Tampa Bay Lightning before the 2018-19 NHL season

It’s a foreign word in the history of sports in Tampa Bay, really. Oh, there are numerous athletes that the Bay area has produced who met and had relations with the word. There are plenty of high school athletic organizations who have known the word but single teams don’t represent the region. Heck, this applies to college sports too. Many residents may claim loyalty and devotion to Florida State, the University of Florida or the University of Miami while the University of South Florida is here in the region and…. Well, the word is foreign in the most prominent sports followed by area sports enthusiasts.

While the word has been largely foreign in the Tampa Bay metro area, it has taken up residency here in the past and it’s seriously hanging out along the banks of the Garrison Channel at current. It blazes so bright that some of the fans are blinded by it and they cannot take satisfaction from it.

The word, ladies and gentlemen, is contention. Read More

Right-vs-wrong; Brett Connolly will not attend Washington Capitals White House visit

Brett Connolly was Steve Yzerman’s first draft choice as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010. Connolly started a tend, though, that too many of the 1st round picks by the Lightning have followed in recent years: He moved on. Connolly was traded to the Boston Bruins at the 2015 NHL trade deadline.

This story isn’t about first-round phase-outs or failings, though, this is to share news about, ahem, Stanley Cup Champion Brett Connolly and a decision worth noting in the sports world. Read More

Florida’s Fox Sports Net stations are up for grabs

I could kvetch here about conglomerates and how mega companies merging – even entertainment companies – is not ideal in many ways, but I just shared my opinion of that and should move on to the point of this post…

Disney has acquired 21st Century Fox. No, not all holdings but tons of them in film and production. The one aspect that Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays, Orlando Magic, Miami Heat and Florida Panthers fans need to be aware of and keep an eye out on is that the deal forces Disney to get rid of some of those holdings…Like Fox Sports Net’s 22 affiliate stations around the country.

This is where two plus two should have clicked and you gotten the idea that the Fox Sports Net stations in the Sunshine State are up for sale. How this will effect broadcasts now or after their acquisition is a puzzle.

It’s not just the who of acquisition that is a puzzle but what will happen that changes or shifts the networks? There’s no telling if everything remains regional alone or if broadcasts from other markets will be aired on the stations to fill air time… Then again, it might all remain status-quo with the stations re-dubbed as NBC Sports or Spectrum affiliates, or another party (Sportnet as an international sports network, perhaps, though law may prevent that).

Comcast and Spectrum are the two key players cited in this article about the situations. Comcast (the communication company that owns the National Broadcast Company and it’s co-branded affiliates such as NBC Sports and MSNBC among many others) or Charter Communications and the Spectrum network. Spctrum has become a player in Tampa Bay of recent as they’ve acquired cable holdings. They do own and operate sports stations elsewhere in the country as-is and do hsave an interest in expanding their holdings.

Broadcasting shouldn’t be affected really; if the sale of the affiliates does not happen by the end of September, the failure will be on the Fox acquisition by Disney. If and when affiliation changes happen though, it’s tough to gauge if and how things will eventually shift on both networks.

Instead of thoughts and speculation, Erik Karlsson trade rumors bring thundering silence to the Tampa Bay Lightning blogosphere

Rumors, innuendo, speculation… It’s loomed since before the 2018 NHL trade deadline and now it’s on the forefront during the NHL offseason. Days after the start of the free agency season, Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson’s name started making headlines again. Karlsson is available on a revamping Senators franchise that is also a marred object by way of owner Eugene Melnyk. (Sinuate: Senators fans – We’re expansion brethren and I sympathize with you over ownership issues; the Tampa Bay Lightning have been there, believe me).

That little statement there dropped the bomb on which franchise this post is about: Les Bolts de Tampa Bay are tied rampantly in speculation at the end of the first week of July. In fact, yesterday (July 6) you could have come to the conclusion the deal was final and done and just had to be announced with details fully disclosed. That’s how much chatter was on Twitter and other means. A third party franchise (or many?) was supposed to be involved in order to manage contracts and move bodies to get things squared away all right and good.

You wouldn’t know this if you checked some of the Lightning blogosphere. Read More

Boycotting the White House and Donald Trump isn’t part of the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals discussion

The Philadelphia Eagles boycotted the White House by-and-large to the point President Donald J. Trump “revoked” the team’s White House visit on June 5th. He had a needless, empty event in its place where he made an ass out of himself. It’s no surprise that participants in the NBA Championship have stood up and said “no way” to a visit at the White House. It doesn’t matter who wins, they’re staying away.

There are too many reasons, both personal and standing up as public figures, for pro athletes to make this boycott move. Some sports fans may sour in reaction because they expect players to just submit and play the game, be the sport-figure and take what normally is the high-honor bestowed upon a champion by the Commander in Chief… But where is the honor coming from Donald Trump and his administration? There are too many acts of disrespect the population – be they minorities or immigrated citizens, the poor and working class, and so many others – that have created issues in society and have led to the protests of the administration and specifically The Donald.

So where do the Stanley Cup Finals teams, the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights, stand in all this?

Silent.

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The inconsistency of NHL rule enforcement and inconsistency of accountability

I’ll invoke a name and that will inspire both groans of displeasure and distaste as well as defensive reactions from those who support their team’s player: Brad Marchand.

Brad Marchand.

Can I say it a third time? No, I’m not trying to apply a licking on your emotions (how gross a joke?)… It’s something else. It’s something larger. It’s not to incite Bruins fans specifically or re-invoke the 2018 Eastern Conference Semifinals. It’s just an opening line of evidence that needs to be cited.

“Evidence to what?” you might ask? Oh, it’s stuff that’s been doing more than just milling around the National Hockey League during the 2017-18 NHL season.  No, it’s not multiple players licking or biting opponents, it’s grander than that. Not a grander action on the player front. No, no, it’s a grander failure by the NHL, be it on-ice officials or those in the executive offices, regarding rule enforcement.

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The pressure of novelty and the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals

With game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals tonight at Capital One Arena, there are two words on my mind, linked together but entirely unlinked. They have nothing to do with each other and yet one causes another.

The first word is pressure.

Not in the way you think it’s applicable.  This is coming from a Tampa Bay Lightning fan, with Tampa Bay Lightning readers (…sometimes; it’s not like this site gets a shitload of traffic). The team’s on the verge and… No, I’m not thinking of game day pressure. That goes for the Washington Capitals as well (hello, Caps faithful) who truly do have game-night pressure simply to have a tomorrow and bring forth a game 7 at Amalie Arena. That’s not the kind of pressure that’s on my mind either.

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Weather or not, Lightning watch party at Curtis Hixon Park for Game 6 of Eastern Conference Finals

I can’t recall the last time the threat of rain and weather was in place chronically over the Tampa Bay region. I’m not talking the typical summer storms, which brings rainfall either in the early morning or evening hours, but through the day. It was why, I think(?), Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals was held at Centro Ybor instead of park facilities like the other games in the 2018 playoffs.

All of that being said, the Lightning just announced that a watch party event for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals will be held at Curtis Hixon Park in Tampa, the exact details are quoted below:

Game 6 – Monday, May 21

Curtis Hixon Park – downtown Tampa
Lightning Playoff Watch Party
Event begins at 6:00 pm
Three screens for fans to watch the game on

As it currently stands, the potential-storm conditions remain for the greater Tampa Bay area. I have not seen the percent-chance of rain but I have seen icons marking the day as threatened. I don’t know how this will play into the evening. It’s jsut something to keep in mind if planning to attend the official party.

Like I’ve asked, if you know of an unofficial watch party going on, you may want to contact me (or use comments) to announce the location and share it with readers.

A snap reaction to snap reactions aimed at the Tampa Bay Lightning and the 2018 NHL Eastern Conference Finals

I don’t know if it’s a casual fan base element, bandwagon fans or actually faithful of the Tampa Bsy Lightning who put on the panic hats if and when the Lightning struggle or fail to win… I know there’s an element of the die-hard fans who are like this – one of them is a good friend of mine – but I do know they have come out of the woodwork during the Lightning’s Eastern Conference Final series with the Washington Capitals after the disappointing opening games of the series.

To those who are crying that the Lightning are missing a piece of the puzzle in the roster, I’d like to welcome you to hockey or to the Tampa Bay Lightning from your original team. What’s worth citing as missing is your experience as a Bolts fan and your knowledge of the Tampa Bay Lightning roster and what it’s capable of.

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Lightning announce watch party locations for Games 3 and 4 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals

As the title says, the Bolts have formally announced two watch party locations for games 3 and 4 of the 2018 NHL Eastern Conference Finals. They are posted below.

I still wish to know, for the sake of the fans, if there are venues — unofficial — holding watch party events tied to the Lightning’s playoff run. I’ve asked this question during the first two rounds of playoff action and also on public forums with no response. You would think a sports bar or two would try to make the most of an opportunity and expose themselves to the masses with watch party events (be it during Lightning road or home games).

If you do know of a venue for unofficial watch party events, please leave a comment or use the site contact form to let me know.

Game 3 – Tuesday, May 15

Centro Ybor – 7th Avenue
Lightning Playoff Watch Party
Event begins at 6:00 p.m.
Three screens for fans to watch the game on

Note: While all watch parties have been outdoor, this is different. It’s also a wise choice as weather conditions early in the week forthcoming are expected to have rain and storms. Forecasts may change but…maybe not.

Game 4 – Thursday, May 17

Curtis Hixon Park – downtown Tampa
Lightning Playoff Watch Party
Event begins at 6:00 pm
Three screens for fans to watch the game on

No telling if an impromptu watch party will be announced if a game 6 is necessary or takes place.

 

A charged factoid about the remaining clubs of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

Poll: Are broadcasts of the NHL on NHC Sports patial?

This poll (via Twitter) will be running until Saturday, May 12th.

[UPDATED] Regarding the Eastern Conference Semifinals and Lightning watch parties

We know who the Bolts are playing in the second round but as of this writing nothing has been announced regarding offficial team watch parties for games 3 & 4. I’ll try to get that information up when it becomes available.

I’m also still interested in posting info on non-official watch parties (businesses that are going to cater to Bolts fans and the series against the Boston Bruins). If I find out, I’ll let you know about that too. Comments with info are welcome, just make sure you share more than just the business name; share the location and perhaps their web site.

UPDATE April 28, 2018:

The Tampa Bay Lightning revealed plans for watch parties a few hours before the start of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Boston Bruins began at Amalie Arena:

Game 3 – Wednesday, May 2

Water Works Park (next to Ulele) in Tampa
Lightning Playoff Watch Party presented by Coors Light
1710 N Highland Ave, Tampa FL 33602
Watch party starts at 5:30 p.m. Puck drop at 7 p.m.

Game 4 – Friday, May 4

Curtis Hixon Park – downtown Tampa
Lightning Playoff Watch Party at Tampa Riverfest 2018
600 N Ashley Dr., Tampa FL 33602
Riverfest activities start at 4 p.m. Puck drop at 7 p.m.

NBC lists TV ratings for the 2018 NHL Playoffs (so far)

I only crossed it this morning but NBC Sports revealed the top 10 markets for broadcasts of the 1st round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Twitter Tuesday afternoon. Those top 10 are listed in the tweet below and my thoughts and such are below it:

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The sum of 51 and the Toronto Maple Leafs quest to advance to the second round

Someone has to say it and I’m sure TSN, Sportsnet and the like will be mentioning this if the Toronto Maple Leafs advances to the Eastern Conference semifinals:

The Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup in 51 years.

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The Lightning’s habit of the 3rd period lapse and thoughts on Tampa Bay vs. New Jersey leading in to Game 5

I was concerned going into the late minutes of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New Jersey Devils. It was a concern grown out of the habit by way of the Bolts late regular season and continued into the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs so far.

With a skimpy one-goal lead, I feared the dreaded 3rd period lapse.

The Lightning held on and won 3-1, it doesn’t change my concern going forward with the habit. It’s putrid how the Bolts have seemingly lain down and let things go to the favor of the opposition regularly during the second half of the NHL sseason in 2017-18. I mean, shit man, Tampa Bay gave the eventual worst team in the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres, a chance to tie the matchup at the Amalie on February 27th and then win in overtime. A 1-0 game, turned into a 2-1 loss by way of complacency and a who-cares? late-game arrogance. To have that expressed in play with regularity does not bode well.

Oh, the April meeting was another careless effort but Tampa Bay won the high-scoring affair so everything I just complained about is meaningless, right? Right?? Someone’s going to think it, but it’s not like the Sabres game I cited was the only time overtime was forced by an opponent. It was happening again and again in February and March; leads conceded in the 3rd that led to overtime and the shootout. Those lapses were too common for a club that was topping the NHL for most of the season and vying for the President’s Trophy.

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An NHL element mixes in with the story of lawyer Michael Cohen

It seems fitting that a sports element has mixed into the story of Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen and his alleged ties to the Russian mafia in the New York area. They’re public figures with ample money that can become targets.

Rolling Stone magazine has an extensive piece on Cohen, giving more insight on the man and more depth to nefarious characters he has ties to. The one interesting element that works its way into the piece is a former NHL player’s name and a check for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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Watch the Lightning and be the thunder at Easter Conference Quarterfinal watch parties

With the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs underway, I was wondering if there are any watch parties taking place with the Tampa Bay Lightning playing at home at Amalie Arena? Not everyone can attend games, after all, and trying to rile up fans to cheer together would be a plus.

I don’t know if Game 2 against he New Jersey Devils will have any watch-party encounters by venues in and around the greater Tampa Bay metro area… I do know that the Bolts will be hosting their own watch party events on Monday, Aprile 16 and Wednesday, April 18th for games 3 and 4 when the Lightning play the Devils at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

The following scheduling and locations were released by the team on Friday afternoon in a press release:

GAME 3 – Monday, April 16
Playoff Beach Bash
Sugar Sand Festival at Pier 60 Clearwater Beach, FL
Party starts at 5:30 PM • Puck Drop at 7:30 PM
Live music, giveaways, Lightning Girls, ThunderBug & more
Parking: No reserved parking for media

 

Note: This one will be a little odd if not totally appropriate with thanks to temperatures. As it stands right now, the forecast is for a cold front to pass through Tampa Bay on Sunday with high tempeatures for Monday set to be only 65 degrees. Add normal, windy conditions on the waterfront on Clearwater Beach and it might get a bit chilly. Totally appropriate for a hockey game though…

GAME 4 – Wednesday, April 18
Playoff Block Party
Armature Works Lawn • 910 N. Ola Ave, Tampa, FL
Party starts at 5:30 PM • Puck Drop at 7:30 PM
Live music, giveaways, Lightning Girls, ThunderBug & more

While there are these two official watch party events, that doesn’t mean private venues won’t be hosting watch parties of their own for game 3 and 4 (or game 2 gor that matter).

Regarding the Humboldt Broncos and the Canadian town of Humboldt, Saskatchewan

14 dead, 14 injured in a horrific collision in Saskatchewan. And a small town — a population around 6,00 – is put in shock. It may be much more personal for Humboldt, who know these teens and young adults quite personally, but the hockey community is just as shocked and heartbroken.

A note on Tampa Bay sports and the playoffs

Though it literally does not play out like this:

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers make the playoffs on average less than once every four seasons of play. I’ve already pointed out the Bucs annual win percentage is abysmal and this just illustrates the club has only made the playoffs 10 times in 41 years of existence.

In contrast, the Tampa Bay Lightning makes the NHL playoffs once every two-and-a-half seasons or so… Well, that is if they make the playoffs this season and to say that’s highly likely is an understatement. As of this writing the Bolts have 94 points on the season and lead the league. If things stand pat and the Lightning make the playoffs, it’ll be the 10th time it’s been done in 25 years of existence and 24 seasons of play (remember the 2004-05 Nil season was entirely wiped out due to lockout).

I was simply going to share this among friends, hammering home the once-every-four-years vs. once-every-two-and-a-half stat but I felt like I’m being cruel to leave out the Tampa Bay Rays. This will be Tampa Bay’s Major League Baseball team’s 20th season of play (only 5 seasons younger than the Lightning) and it’s notable that the Rays post-season faring is more comparable to the Buccaneers than the Lightning: In 19 completed season of play, the Rays have only made the playoffs four times (2008, the team’s 10th anniversary season, was the first time the club ever went to the playoffs).

As awful as that looks, there’s a defense for the Rays compared to the Buccaneers or lightning for that matter: MLB’s playoff system is a much tighter beast than the NFL and NHL. The league only started using wild cards (single slots in each league) in 1994. It was expanded to two in 2012.

At any rate, unless the Lightning suffers a grand disaster of play to close the 2017-18 season (and there are only 16 games remaining for them), they’ll tie the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in all-time playoff berths. The Rays won’t be coming close anytime soon, if ever, with thanks in part going toward the differences in schedule and playoff formatting between the three pro sports leagues.

The idea of politics and the NHL cross paths

Russia. Collusion. Obstruction of justice. “Act of War”. You can’t dismiss this stuff and it’s still coming to fruition through Special Counsel Robert Mueller as well as House Intelligence committee hearings and such. Perhaps you look past this or perhaps you turn away from politics in general; there are other things in this world worth attention that aren’t the complication of politics and the riff-raff of the them-vs.-us partisan fray.

Sports are a relief. In one case, though, a sport is in unstated “what-if?” territory. Read More

NHL player frustration mounts from officiating inconsistency

It’s silly season in the NHL, where fights are going to be more common along with outlandishness on ice and off. Yet there’s been a consistent issue on-ice of outlandishness that has baffled players: Officiating and rule enforcement. Read More

A Tampa Bay Lightning ramble by the original Lightning blogger

I made a name and reputation for myself with 12-and-a-half years of blogging about the Tampa Bay Lightning. I was a pioneer in hockey blogging in general (starting what will be fourteen years ago in a matter of days). Want proof? I’d send you to the archives of Raw Charge but SB Nation complicates the process (read: I’d send you to my profile alone but they don’t list all the articles, Fan Posts and Fan Shots that I’ve posted).

Have I stopped following hockey or the Lightning? Hell no! Read More

Of Tampa Bay sports and media focus

I’ve been put off since last week while scanning headlines and online coverage of news in the Tampa Bay area and seeing a greater-than-usual focus put on the Gasparilla Pirate Festival than usual, while the marquee mid-season event of the NHL All-Star Weekend was an afterthought (or a complication to Gasparilla festivities). It felt almost like the NHL and Tampa Bay Lightning are afterthoughts.

In fact, disappointment and issues with the Bucs holding the headlines in the fall of 2017 and through the early weeks of 2018 have taken away notice to casual readers of local headlines online than the Tampa Bay Lightning haven’t just been playing games, but have been (and this will floor you) winning. Read More

The idea of hockey players from Tampa Bay

Some of the history of Tampa Bay Lightning hockey was touched on with my endorsement and love shown in the Vincent Lecavalier piece last week. The seed that Phil Esposito planted has taken firm root in Tampa Bay as the true forefather of hockey in non-traditional markets. Yeah, the Atlanta Flames preceded the Bolts, but the franchise did not take root and relocated to Calgary, Alberta.

Tampa Bay really was at the forefront of a southern surge through expansion and relocation – the Florida Panthers, Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars, Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators, and Atlanta Thrashers (who ended up relocating to Winnipeg) and the neophyte Vegas Golden Knight.

This didn’t all come by way of Tampa Bay’s success – pro sports is a business; true expansion is to go to an untapped market – but the Lightning was at the start of it all. Starting play in a new market, new exposure to the game to the youth of the region.

Now here’s a question that coincides this: Who is Tampa Bay’s best-produced hockey player? Read More

The grand and highest; the feats achieved for Tampa Bay by Vincent Lecavalier

The grand and highest; the feats achieved for Tampa Bay by Vincent Lecavalier

Grand Marshal“, why does that seem such a fitting title for Vincent Lecavalier who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning 1st overall in the 1998 NHL Draft, ventured through the hell of a lost franchise, the warfare of conflict with John Tortorella (and calm bestowed upon the pair by Jay Feaster), and has his name immortalized on the Chalice of Lord Stanley with his colleagues and companions from the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning roster?

Vinny rules. He was…no, no, wait, wait; he is. He is Tampa Bay Lightning hockey. While Roman Hamrlik was draft pick Numero Uno for the hockey franchise bestowed upon Phil Esposito and the Tampa/St. Petersburg Metroplex, while Chris Gratton and Jason Weimer were early standard-bearers along with Hammer. They didn’t last in Tampa. They didn’t develop fully and top out with the Bolts (or, arguably at all). Everyone that came to the Lightning between 1992 and 1997 just came and went. They served, they left a mark.

The ones who went deepest in the psyche of the fledgling market did not come by way of the draft or having developed with or through Tampa Bay. That is not trying to write off long-time alumni and early stars of this club like Brian Bradley or Darren Puppa, Rob Zamuner or Alex Selivanov. They gave us a taste of what was to come. They let us feel it and revel in it – Tampa Bay Lightning hockey and being a competitive force in the NHL and drawing us to the game. The 1996 NHL playoffs was a glimpse of what was to come.

Lecavalier helped show us what is an what can be. Read More

An annual Tampa Bay festival to coincide the NHL All-Star invasion

Happy New Year to one and all. May 2018 be an annum of achievement and positive happenings for you and yours.

A little note to precede the National Hockey League’s 2018 NHL All-Star weekend for those attending as out-of-town fans and those exposed to the event through national media covering things in Tampa:

There’s an annual event that goes down in Tampa each year, it’s not an official marking of the start of tourist season in town but it tends to coincide it and can be tied to marquee events happening in town like the NFL’s Super Bowl when it’s played at Raymond James Stadium or, say, the NHL holding its All-Star game.

In this event, a flotilla of ships, led by a pirate ship known as the José Gaspar, will cruise around the waters of the Port of Tampa before “invading” downtown Tampa to mark the official start of the Gasparilla Pirate Festival. It’s usually high level execs and political people playing the role of pirate aboard the José Gaspar (or aboard their own ships hanging out with those on the pirate boat) before they land in downtown Tampa and are given control of the city by the mayor of Tampa.

Gasparilla is many events strewn out for a few weeks of time, but it’s the flotilla and pirate invasion that is the visible event that can catch the attention. There’s also a parade event through the Tampa city streets in the early afternoon.

So, what gives with a blog post on New Years Day about it, and why aim the attention at NHL fans?

Everything with the invasion event scheduled for Saturday, January 27th. That’ll be the day of coverage of the NHL Skills Competition, alumni game and all the other  lead-in events preceding Sunday, January 28th‘s NHL All-Star game. I wouldn’t be surprised if some pirate shenanigans are caught on film by visiting media – especially TSN or RDS. Hell, it wouldn’t shock me if NHL All-Stars and alumni find their way into the event as members of the invasion and parade (paging Alex Ovechkin, Mr. Alex Ovechkin…). If you’re scheduled to be in the Tampa Bay area for the weekend, you may want to look into events tied to the Saturday morning invasion antics in and around downtown Tampa…well, unless they conflict with events at Amalie Arena or directly tied to the All-Star weekend you’d rather attend.

For information on Gasparilla check the official site. For history on the festival and other info, I point you to Wikipedia.

Update (January 2nd at 2PM): Well, the NHL taste of the Gasparilla Festival event has taken on a taste. The Grand Marshall of the shindig was announced this afternoon by Ye Mystic Krewe, the organizers, governing crew and swabs, mates, and brooding Pirates of the José Gaspar: Former NHL center and Tampa Bay Lightning alumnus Vincent Lecavalier.

From the press release, quotes from the Krewe and Vinny:

“Vinny Lecavalier was the perfect choice as our Grand Marshal this year as we host the NHL All-Star Weekend in Tampa” said Christopher Lykes, Captain of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla. “Vinny was a force with the Lightning and a force as an NHL All-Star. He has continued his leadership by being an active and positive role model in our Community” added Lykes.

“I am honored and grateful to Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla for selecting me to be the Grand Marshal of the 2018 Pirate Fest and Parade, especially at a time when the Lightning will be hosting the All-Star Game in our community,” said Lecavalier. “Tampa Bay is a special place with great traditions and the Lightning and Gasparilla are two of them. I look forward to representing both with pride in the parade.”

Change and lack-there-of behind the bench in the NHL so far in 2017-18

It’s mid-December in 2017, just shy of the true middle of the 2017-18 season and there’s a noteworthy lacking going on. Oh, it is an on-ice failing but it’s not a singular player statistic or performance. It’s team unction and wins and losses. And inaction by the management and ownership of any NHL franchise.

There’s a lingering story around the league about poor play and it’s coming from a variety of clubs:

  • The abyss that is the Buffalo Sabres keeps treading in the murk of the NHL standings as it has for too long now. They have only 23 points in 33 games played as of this writing.
  • Discontent from fans and mediocrity from the teams stymies the Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers.
  • Rick Tocchet may get a pass by way of it being his first season as head coach of the Arizona Coyotes but the team is truly in the cellar with only 7 wins and 19 points total.

The Metro Division is a neck-and-neck race (with six points being the difference between first place (New Jersey Devils) and last (Carolina Hurricanes).

Suffice it to say, I’m shocked we haven’t seen the axe fall somewhere and a coach get dismissed for mediocrity or an abominable performance by his club. Read More

What is time’s tale of Tampacuse with Lightning and Crunch fans?

 

The intention here was to write a blog post leading in to this poll regarding the Tampa Bay Lightning / Syracuse Crunch affiliation. The lead-in got sidetracked on major league/minor league (IHL and NHL) affiliations for the Bolts and gets too far away from the simple poll question I have for the faithful from both clubs:

[poll id=”3″]

It’s been five years now since Tampa Bay and Syracuse teamed up. Some may see nothing from the pairing as only one team matters — the one you’re exposed to. Others know there’s importance to the development pipeline but won’t necessarily agree that the affiliates matter as-so-much as how the organization overall handles operations at the player-personnel level.

Whatever the case, what say you? Are you happy or discontent with the Tampa Bay / Syracuse affiliation? Vote!

By the way, the title of this post seems a little awkward but “time’s tale” basically summarizes the length of the affiliation and the events (ya know, games, player movement, what not) with the clubs.

Three noteworth Reddit groups for hockey and sports fans

Reddit isn’t just a message board. It’s also not a dump-all marketing destination either. As a long time blogger, I didn’t deliberately try to mine traffic from Reddit because I didn’t want to be the one who posted any of my written-content from my days at Raw Charge on major subreddits. That’s ethics, though. I’ve turned that around in my time moderating on a subreddit devoted to hockey blogs. The subreddit /r/HockeyWriters is devoted to what is basically blog content and hockey authors. I’ve been the one (by way of content submissions from around the hockey blogosphere) to give the group some life.

Yet I can’t do it all. By that I mean I can’t be expected to post everything on the group. Read More

Q and A with Calgary Flames blogger Kent Wilson of FlamesNation

I got Kent Wilson from FlamesNation to participate in the hockey blogger Q and A that I’ve been casually conducting this month. Kent’s one of the strengths of The Nation Network and blogging in general, having his hand in the 2014 “summer of stats”.

What follows is a little insight in how Kent found his way into blogging and his views on the season ahead for the NHL.

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A hockey blogging Q and A with Ken Boehlke from SinBin.Vegas

It is a season for beginnings, and I don’t just mean the rookie class of 2017-18 (that’s a yet-to-truly-know brood; it’ll clarify in the weeks to come) but the franchise class of 2017-18.

The birth of the Vegas Golden Knights is also the birth of professional sports in Las Vegas, Nevada (being the first major-league team in Sin City, USA) and so far the population has been quite receptive of what is yet to come. Ticket sales revenue is ahead of other franchises — 20 of’em –  and you can find all sorts of excitement and interest on the start of Golden Knight hockey.

Ken Boehlke of SinBin.Vegas has been covering the forthcoming franchise  it was a sought-after commodity for Las Vegas (his start will  be exactly 2 years ago on August 26th).  Below you’ll find his odds and ends and opinions regarding writing, the league, and  more.

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A hockey blogger Q and A with Lyle Richardson of Spectors Hockey

One of the routine areas that draws fans to the web to find out what they can are rumors. Some are made up, some are hearsay, some are those casually expressed “I’m hearing…” remarks that you see on Twitter from major members of hockey coverage.

The man at the blogging level who made a name for himself and found a firm niche in covering reports on potential player movement in the NHL is Lyle Richardson of Spectors Hockey, who you likely have also seen on such sources as Fox Sports and Bleacher Report among others.

Richadson is another one of the forefathers of the hockey blogosphere, starting around 2003. Want proof? I reposted this article for him during the NHL lockout of 2005, having originally run in November 2003.

While there are a lot of questions still to be had about player movement and eery franchise in the league, the questions are a mix about the man,  blogging, and guys named “Joe” and “Jaromir”.

Read More

A hockey blogger Q and A with Laura Astorian of St. Louis Game Time

Continuing the Q & A series that was unveiled Wednesday, another of hockey bloggings assetss chimes in on life in covering not one but two teams in her blogging career. Laura Astorian, who has been a void of both the St. Louis Blues and the Atlanta Thrashers. It’s one thing to cover multiple teams in one town, but to stand up and show love by way over coverage for two teams in the same sport at one time is a hell of an accomplishment.

Laura currently runs St. Louis Game Time on SB Nation (which is also a game-day publication for Blues games; that is done by Brad Lee). She’s a great follow on Twitter too for take on the sport, the entertainment industry and what not.

What does Laura think about the NHL’s plan to forgo the 2018 winter Olympics? What tips does she have for those who want to get into blogging? Read below.

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A hockey blogger Q and A with J.P. of Japers Rink

While I pour over headlines of the hockey blog universe on a daily basis, I’ve been noticing something missing in the summer of 2017 that usually runs as an ongoing series in the hockey blogosphere: question-and-answer sessions that don’t just run the course of talking about other teams, but illustrate networking in blogdom.

Today I’m (hopefully) starting a series of Q & A interviews with some of the hockey blogosphere’s top members. The questions aren’t locked-on-the-franchise talk but touches on blogging as well as the wider NHL with some points that often play out in regular discussions that have been prominent this summer  among idle fans.

This introduction interview is with Jon “J.P” Press, founder of Washington Capitals blog Japers RInk.  Jon has been at his game as a hockey blogger since the 2004-05 NHL lockout. That idle time was pretty tough for fans to live through, and yet it gave birth to known members of the blogging universe as well as the mainstream media.

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Best of the Bay and the Bolts for 2017

I may have touched on talking about music (sweet music…music everywhere) but the topic of note is the one that my name is usually linked to: The Tampa Bay Lightning. Creative Loafing’s 2017 reader poll doesn’t lack nor neglect notable aspects of the Bolts – directly or indirectly – which sets the table for Lightning fans to show support for cogs they know regarding the club.

Mind you, there may be more nominated aspects and assets with ties to the franchise (Amalie Arena, or perhaps a locale within the arena). What’s being cited here is from the section called People, Places, Politics which features categories pertaining to public figures, locations and sports. Read More

Topsy Tourney; Thoughts on hockey and the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics

In a way, ice hockey can be much like soccer/futbol. Oh, I’m not comparing playing on an ice sheet to playing on a huge field of grass, nor players wearing a ton of gear to men in shorts and shirts and somewhat-regular shoes. It’s the fact there are so many tournaments of an international variety that come in to play at all levels of the game that is the similarity. Some are annual, some are vastly irregular and others are on a regular schedule a few years apart… Like the Olympics.

The Olympic games are just a variant of grandiose sport-specific tournaments like the World Cup in Soccer which is played ever four years.  I’ll cite the World Junior Championships in hockey, which is an annual tournament of junior-aged players (upper-teens to 20 years old) doing battle, country versus country. There’s also the World Championships which is a toned-down general hockey championship that utilizes players that aren’t involved in the playoffs in pro leagues around the world and those who don’t have to rest and recuperate from a trying season in their respective leagues.

The World Cup of Hockey is an irregular tournament of national teams played in late summer or early fall which can amount to preseason action for the big name talents from around the globe (though that’s not entirely true – the Euro leagues have started by this point while the NHL is in preseason mode). The irregularity sort of dims this and a thin history doesn’t do it any favors either.

And then there are the Olympics… Read More