Friday, October 30, 2009
This is the chili verde. Scrumptious. If the bowl wasn't hot, I would have seriously taken off my glasses and just stuck my face in it and sucked so that I could ingest the chili that must faster (two nostrils plus mouth plus ear holes!).
My traveling companion had the canneloni stuffed with butternut squash, goat cheese and spinich with an heirloom tomato sauce. I tried it and almost wept the sauce was so good.
We'll probably eat here again Sunday night. Yes, it's that amazing.
That's it for tonight. Tomorrow: hiking in Zion National Park!
On that subject: I'd like to extend a hearty "suck it" to the Nevada gaming commission. There's no way on God's green earth that little ball should have landed on zero. I don't know how it got there, but got there it did and I parted with money that could have been used for the new hockey jock I desperately need; the old one is either shrinking or hockey is making the ol' evanroot grow...never mind.
If I'm counting correctly, I'd have to miss a lot of penalty shots to be buck naked on the ice. I've got a helmet, shoulder pads, two elbow pads, jersey, hockey shorts, two hockey socks, two shin guards and finally my hockey undershorts/garter. And, I'm sorry, there's no way that I ever -- I mean ever -- would remove the jock strap while on the ice, particularly if my teammates are armed with sticks and it's under 80 degrees in the rink.
Yes, I'm worried about exactly what you think I'm worried about.
What does a 632-pound pumpkin have to do with hockey? Nothing! Sometimes Puck Boy has to leave the L.A. area for a little soul replenishment, even if it means a few days of no skating. Bummer, but what can you do?
I stayed at the Paris hotel in Las Vegas last night en route to Zion National Park in southwestern Utah. The Paris hotel is supposed to remind you of what it's like to be in Paris. Although I'm generally un-cultured and my travels somewhat limited, I've actually been to Paris.
And what do the Paris hotel and Paris, France, have in common? Pretty much nothing. One looks like a shopping mall inhabited by mostly obese or the extreme aged and smells like an ashtray soaked in donkey urine, while Paris looks like one of the planet's great cosmopolitan cities with splendid architecture, food and -- it must be said -- beautiful French women.
Thus the reason my traveling companion and I took a walk across Las Vegas Boulevard to the Bellagio, a hotel that actually -- even by Vegas' low standards -- is pretty nice. I dropped $40 in slot machines that I could have just as easily balled up and tossed in the toilet, but I was under the delusion that I may win a zillion dollars and spend the winter at Jackson Hole.
But at least I got to see a giant pumpkin and I'll be honest about this -- there's just something about giant gourds that always makes me smile.
I'll post more from the trip even if it has nothing to do with hockey. After all, it's my blog and I'm working for free and maybe one of my three regular readers may learn something.
Monday, October 26, 2009
I am also employed. At least for now.
I am clearly residing in an alternative universe today, so I thought I would let you know what else is playing here:
1. I have been asked to formally join the E Street Band.
2. I also became a Jedi Knight this morning and as my first order of business I have banished the Pasadena City Council to Dagobah for their unwillingness to build a new ice rink and their inability to time the traffic signals to accommodate my Subaru/Land Speeder Thing.
3. I get to drive a fire engine -- with the sirens on!
4. My slap shot always sails into the air and injures those foolish enough to stand between it and the goal.
5. I am having dinner with Cate Blanchett this evening (burgers and beer at My Father's Office) and she will wear that sick red dress from the Benjamin Button movie. Hey Brad Pitt--screw you! She's mine now!
6. I will get into a hockey fight and use my new light saber to remove the gloves (and hands, I guess) of my opponent.
7. I can talk to bear and play board games with them.
Friday, October 23, 2009
My tale goes something like this--and, mind you, fact and fiction may have gotten a little mixed up in my noggin in the six days since the Great Garter Incident occurred.
As I arrived at Pickwick ice rink in Burbank last Saturday morning for my weekly Hockey 101 class, a woman pulled up in an SUV and unloaded a hockey bag. I assumed she was a hockey mom.
But we all know what happens when you assume things -- you just make an ass out of you and me. The Burbank rink has no locker room, so it turns out we quickly met one another as we donned our gear on the benches outside the rink. She was a former figure skater and current roller hockey player who wanted to learn the awesome, sacred (my words, not hers) sport of ice hockey.
She hadn't really played ice hockey before. We were both running late, and she had the tough task of learning how to put on a pile of hockey gear in a very short amount of time. If you have never played the game, think Knights of the Round Table -- yes, it's that much gear.
And like a lot of beginning hockey gears, she had to take a long pause when it came to the issue of the garter belt that holds up the thick socks that go over hockey shin guards. While my garter is attached to my shorts (here's my earlier post/tome to my own garter) she had the more traditional garter that looks like the kind of garter belt a lady would wear. Under a dress.
Faced with the prospect of droopy socks and missing Coach Tian's excellent Hockey 101 clinic, the woman must have made the internal calculation that there was only one sad thing she must do: ask the bespectacled idiot chatting her up for help with the garter.
And so she did, walking over to me in her hockey undershorts (think biking shorts) and asking me to show her how to clip to the garter to the socks.
"Sorry to stick my ass in your face so early," she said as I mumbled some clever retort that may have sounded like "I was hoping you would ask."
I won't bother mentioning here that, of course, the woman was not unattractive.
Before the word "P-I-G" begins flashing in front of your eyes, I should also mention here that I have a fair number of friends who are women, owing to the fact that somewhat mysteriously all of my City Hall sources when I was a reporter just happened to be women.
So I like to think that I can behave most of the time as a Mature Adult and I tried to handle the situation with a certain clinical detachment, showing the woman how the little plastic thingamajigs on the garter sometimes become loose and how to pop them back in place. I'm quite sure she must have been very impressed with how mechanically inclined I was.
As all of this was taking place, the woman was also telling me how she had borrowed her ice skates from a friend and wasn't even sure she could skate. This heartened me -- well it heartened the one percent of my brain that was listening to her -- because I thought I may not be the worst skater on the ice that morning. We also had a brief discussion whether she should wear an athletic cup or not, concluding she could probably get by without one.
If you, dear reader, have a brain then you must know what comes next. We proceed to the ice -- me already sweating like I had just walked across the Sahara and back -- and it turns out Ms. Garter Belt can skate. Her puck handling was a little rough, but so is mine.
And then Coach Tian ordered up a corner drill.
In this super-fun drill, Coach Tian knocks a puck from the blue line down into the corner. Then two skaters chase the puck, with the goal being to grab it and get out of the corner and score. I was paired with Ms. Garter Belt because the other two guys in the class both weighed well over 200 pounds and I'm only carrying about 168 pounds these days.
The whistle blew and stride for stride, Garter Belt and I raced to the corner. I don't really remember what happened next except when we emerged from the corner, I don't recall the puck being on my stick. Later, Garter Belt mentioned that I might have checked her while in the corner. I have no memory of that. I do remember being surprised when she got her stick under mine and jerked it up, causing the puck to go scooting away.
Humiliating and thrilling all at the same time!
And so the morning went. During another drill -- a full lap race around the rink -- I took a spill and she kept going. During two-on-twos, Garter Belt proved to be a scrappy, intuitive player, even more so during our four-on-four scrimmage. The girl could skate. And she wanted to score. Badly.
After an hour and 45 minutes of this, we finally quit and had a nice chat while changing and basically sitting in our hockey underwear outside the rink as a pee wee team took over the ice. Me being me, I drove home and immediately told The Girlfriend that I had heroically helped a woman put on her hockey garter, thinking this would be Fun Breakfast Conversation.
The Girlfriend registered this news and gave me that particular look of hers in which she appears to be surprised (once again) that I have the maturity of a 12-year-old boy. I have been trying for years to lower expectations of myself and still I manage to disappoint.
In any event, I decided at that point that it would be best if I shared my little story with no one to show that I'm a Mature 43-Year-Old Male.
And then I said screw it. It took 43 years for an attractive woman to ask me to help her put on a hockey garter and I suspect it will be another 43 before it happens again.
I am but a simple Puck Boy and these are my stories...
Friday, October 16, 2009
This video has been making the rounds on the internet over the past couple of days and for good reason: it's of a nine-year-old boy making an incredible shootout goal during an intermission at a Boston Bruins game. If you're an adult and want to immediately feel shame about your own hockey abilities, I recommend watching this right away.
The NHL Fanhouse website has more about the kid and his saintly shot and some other interesting links.
video: NHL Fanhouse
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Bettman isn't sure he wants NHL players in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, saying he doesn't want to interupt the regular season.
Ah, I see. God forbid a regular season Atlanta-Tampa game is delayed a couple of weeks in order to feature the NHL's best players in front of the whole wide world.
One player is already basically telling Bettman to go fuck himself. That would be Alex Ovechkin, the league's best player and someone who rightly wants to participate in the 2014 games on his home soil.
Here's a link to a good NYT article about the dispute.
The problem is that on Sunday I ran my first half-marathon down in Long Beach and I'm a little sore today. Scratch that. I'm a lot sore today. Human beings are simply not made to wake up at 3:30 on a Sunday morning and run 13.1 miles. Human beings are made to be home on Sunday mornings, reading the NYT Sunday Styles page (photos of hottie brides!) while watching the Bengals deliver a collective "suck it" to the crab-infested Baltimore Ravens.
But my friend and I decided many moons ago to run the race, so run the race we did. And we actually did well. She clocked a 2:00:27 in her first half-marathon -- and ran the first six miles wearing a jacket because of the sub-Arctic 64 degree weather. For the record, she certainly would have finished under two hours if not for having to remove the jacket and cope with an errant iPod. I'm very proud of her and feel badly that those 27 seconds will continue to haunt her dreams until the next race.
I didn't do badly myself, finishing in 2:02.50. I was at 1:32 after 10 miles, but I lost my legs in the last three miles. If someone wants to start a charitable foundation to forever eliminate calf and hamstring cramps during running races, I have a $100 check waiting for you.
Some highlights of the race:
*I was so excited about finishing that I spiked my $24.99 water bottle at the finish line, producing a sweet geyser of orange Gatorade and annoying the race official whose foot I almost hit. The bottle skittered away, never to be seen again. I pray someone got a photo of this.
*As runners were being filtered in a chute away from the finish line, race officials handed out bananas -- actually it was about one-third of a banana. Being a total potassium junkie, I took a couple of bites of mine and then proceeded to drop it. Starved for calories, I actually leaned over to pick up the rest -- the fact that it was being stomped on by dozens of runners was not a concern -- until a security guard said "son, you know you can have another one." I almost wept.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
If you're new to the issue, here are links to a couple of previous Puck Boy posts on the topic:
Ice rink supporters ask for a re-vote
Pasadena Council to skaters: Go to Burbank!
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I'm a relatively new hockey fan. But watching the game intensely for the past year has convinced me that the NHL has embraced fighting to the sport's detriment and that the league is far too tolerant of some very questionable hits.
I'm just learning to play, but it's pretty clear to me that these type of hits and fights are only allowed in the NHL and pro leagues. Most other forms of hockey emphasize the hockey and see no need for the dirty stuff.
This is a long intro to a hit that took place the other night in the Vancouver-Columbus game, when Columbus forward Jared Boll got checked by a Vancouver player and then received a blindside hit from another Canuck, Darcy Hordichuk, that resulted in Boll slamming his head against the boards. He needed to be helped off the ice.
The Sporting News' Bob McKenzie wrote that the hit says a lot about the state of the NHL. Excerpt:
So, yeah, maybe I would have felt a little better if Hordichuk had been suspended by the NHL, but not much. Because the larger issue for me is how accepted a hit like Hordichuk's has become. I would suggest the NHL community – from the league's hockey operations to the managers to the coaches to the players to the Players' Association – should at least bat around this notion of what type of hitting is acceptable and what's not. Is it really the end of the world as we know it to perhaps consider that the hitters need to exercise judgment before they deliver their hit? Or has the game become so much about hitting and “finishing the check” that it's done with no regard whatsoever on the consequences?Read McKenzie's entire piece. I agree with him. I think the only way that the sport will clean up its act is if fans -- the ones who pay the bills -- demand that it's cleaned up.
The other big problem now is that it's difficult to even have a responsible dialogue about this subject. The minute you do, the reaction from the traditionalists and hard-liners is that ''you're going to take hitting out of the game.'' It's a knee-jerk reaction to avoid having to talk about the issue and if that fails, the next step is to challenge the machismo of the person raising the issue.
Hitting is not in danger of leaving hockey any time soon, even if certain aspects of hitting are challenged. I think it's a gross overreaction and fear-mongering at its worst to suggest any discussion on this subject is going to neuter the physicality of the sport. It's not an all or nothing proposition.
But this photo at the Let's Go Kings blog is proof positive of the determination in the Kings organization to right past wrongs. Look at the steely gaze. The look of determination. The look of someone skating hard.
Go ahead. Click. It's 5:30. It's not like you're really gonna spend the next 30 minutes working...
When I arrived at the Kings game on Saturday night, my hockey buddy Scott was prepared and handed me these two images.
I had been whining earlier in the week that seven month into my grand learn-to-skate-and-play-hockey-experiment, I was having problems nailing a hockey stop and skating well on my outside edges. It's not a problem I entirely understand, as I'm a pretty decent skier and skis, of course, have inside and outside edges.
The photos, I think, show how similar skating and skiing are. Scott drew the lines on the top photo of him skating for the California Leafs; the bottom photo is from a book, "Anyone Can Be an Expert Skier."
Look at the body postioning in both photos. Shoulders are parallel to the surface and square to the direction the skater/skier are going. It's the legs that are swiveling out to the side -- not the whole body. The chin is up because both hockey players and skiers should be looking ahead for things trying to kill them -- and keeping the head up encourages the proper posture.
I'll let you know how much this helps. I'm taking the week off from hockey and skating to rest my legs for Sunday's half-marathon in Long Beach. But I'm going to print this blog entry out and stuff it in my hockey shorts next time I skate (yeah, I guess the cucumber is gonna have to go!).
I encourage you to do the same.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Kudos to Meredith Daniels of Newsday for her story on hockey moms -- not the ones who schlep kids to games but those who have taken up playing the game. She leads with two great anecdotes: one about a mom whose C-section sutures split because she returned to playing too soon. Another woman began playing after getting beaned with a puck at an Islanders game, something she took as a divine sign. Newsday
After getting hit in the jaw with a slapshot, former minor league player Justin Bourne contemplates retirement and his future career as a sportswriter. Hockey News
As a former sportswriter, I think Bourne is going to do well -- the guy has the chops. Here's a very critical post from his Bourne's Blog on a former teammate who Bourne believes "plays l
ike a donkey." Bourne's Blog. Addendum: Bourne also must have a great sense of humor because FU Penguin is in his blogroll.
What to wear to an interview to be an ice bimbo for the Atlanta Thrashers? Check out this exciting online photo gallery! Thrashers
Ms. Conduct is learning to play goalie as a recreational player and dreams of lumberjacking an opposing player. Needless to say, Ms. Conduct is my kinda woman. She has this video embedded in her post -- now that's a goalie that doesn't fuck around. Ms. Conduct blog
When I left stick time in Pasadena late on Sunday afternoon, there was a definite nip in the air -- something not felt out here in the San Gabriel Valley in a few moons. It now officially feels like autumn and things are even better in the Sierra, where snow fell the last couple of days. The Tahoe resorts also got a few inches.
The above shot is from a webcam at Mammoth Mountain's main lodge. The resort is reporting five to seven inches and appears on track for their Nov. 12 opening. I did notice the resort had not yet posted lift ticket prices on their website, sparing me my usual kineption fit. At least for now.
In other winter activity news, the Kings host the Sharks tonight at Staples and it will be fun to see if the local boys can bounce back from their major case of the yips that resulted in a lopsided loss to Phoenix on Saturday.
photo: Mammoth Mountain
Monday, October 5, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
QUESTION: What was the atmosphere like at the Kings' home opener?
ANSWER: In an attempt to get fans excited about attending a hockey game -- because, you know, professional hockey isn't very exciting -- the Kings used strobe lights at every opportunity, gave away tickets to a KISS concert and had a video of an Ice Crew member describe her "pre-game routine," (which, by the way, included nothing interesting such as "waxing the players sticks, etc.").
Best of all, they dragged out the pre-game introductions by having each Kings player walk individually out of what appeared to be a castle stolen from a children's playground. The castle was bathed in red light. It was fun when the first player, Jack Johnson, emerged. Then it just got schlocky and boring and sapped the energy from the building.
QUESTION: Don't strobe lights make everything instantly more exciting?
ANSWER: Yes, if you are a fucking douchebag nutsack who needs to be told when to get excited. For the rest of us, they either give us a migraine or epileptic fit. And, the constant use of strobe lights throughout the game make us wonder if the Kings employ a bunch of nine-year-olds to run Staples Center.
QUESTION: Surely the crowd roared with excitement at the hockey game?
ANSWER: Actually, the loudest the crowd got was during a timeout when a few spastic Kings employees and members of the Ice Crew shot T-shirts out of an air cannon. Some of the T-shirts had KISS tickets in them and, you know, there's always the chance Gene Simmons & Co. will play "Beth."
QUESTION: But it was a sellout crowd, right?
ANSWER: So says the Kings. About one-third of the premier level seats -- the best in the house -- were empty. Why the Kings sell these to corporations or people who don't use them beats the shit out of me. Usually the premieres are at least half-empty, contributing to the disctinct lack of crowd noise at Kings games (it also doesn't help that the third level of seats sit atop three layers of luxury boxes, the reason the third level folks have to look down to see heaven). I enjoyed sitting in my $125 premiere seat for last night's game that I bought on StubHub for $35.
QUESTION: What do you need to make a hockey game exciting?
ANSWER: A competitive team, an organ, a p.a. announcer with a personality and a fun mascot. Funny thing is, the Kings actually have all four of those things (yes, they have a team that will win some games) -- but they instead insist on the amazingly annoying strobe lights and heavy metal cranked up so loud you can't even talk to the dude or dudess sitting next to you during the timeouts. For the record, I have nothing against heavy metal. But there's a time and a place.
QUESTION: If I were the King, what would I do?
ANSWER: Use the video board only for replays of the hockey game, lose the strobe lights, unleash the organ player (play some Bruce!) and make hockey the emphasis of attending a hockey game.
Friday, October 2, 2009
This great little sequence of photos features my hockey buddy Scott playing for the California Leafs last weekend in the Las Vegas Hockey Festival. The Leafs defeated Gunnison and went a perfect 4 and 0 to win the Keno division in the tourney.
The Leafs also recently won the over-40 summer league title at the Toyota Sports Center. It was the Leafs' ninth league or tournament title in 16 years of existence and -- get this -- the current average age of the team is 42. That's music to my ears (I'm 43).
Scott, by the way, got the shot off before eating it. Scott also says that #19 tried to act like he didn't do anything wrong, which I can totally respect. Always act innocent -- at least until formally sentenced!
photos: Susan Mulligan
An acquaintance forwarded me an email the team sent last night to a local rink:
It's not a huge discount -- basically it amounts to $6 or $7 off 200 level seats and $10 off the 100 level seats.
As of 3:35, I checked ticket availability for tomorrow night's opener against Phoenix and there were fifth row seats in section 118 available as well as second row seats in 308. At regular prices on Ticketmaster, I also found two front row seats on the glass for section 110 ($953!) and a pair in row six in section 214 ($144).
It makes you wonder how the Kings are faring when it comes to ticket sales. I know times are tough and the Coyotes are hardly a draw, but still it's the home opener and on paper the Kings seem to be improved.
I just checked and there's also some decent seats left near face value on the Kings season ticket exchange. If I didn't already have seats, I'd probably drain my checking account further by springing for the pair of tickets in row two of section 15 for $66 apiece.
Ice rink supporters ask Council for re-vote; Puck Boy agrees and says children shouldn't have to watch him 'rearrange the furniture' at current rink
The three Council members who opposed the rink (Chris Holden, Terry Tornek and Margaret McAustin) also voted down a motion to postpone the vote until the entire Council was present. As a result, the project died, although the city had spent millions of dollars over the last decade studying and planning for the new rink with two sheets of ice to replace the dumpy current one with an under-sized rink.
Build the Rink is asking supporters to email Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard and Council members and request a revote. I agree it's worth asking. Problem is, the Council had a quorum when they voted last time and while refusing to postpone the vote may have been sleazy and against the public's interests, it was also perfectly legal.
I've posted Build the Rink's email, which includes Council member's emails, after the jump. I'm going to pen my own email, which will go something like this:
Dear Council members;
On Wednesday night, I was sitting on a bench in the Pasadena Ice Skating Center, changing into my hockey gear. The place was crowded, as it often is, and several of us were sitting or standing around in our undergarments as small children milled about.
The current rink is too small and has one tiny side room that is a de facto co-ed locker room. I don't think small children should have to watch me wrestle my athletic cup into place, but obviously the Council has no issues with me "re-arranging the furniture" in front of impressionable, easily frightened kids. It's also worth mentioning that the Ice Center's one sheet of ice is too small and does a poor job accomodating the needs of figure skaters, hockey players and those who simply want to skate.
Ice skating is tremendously popular in Southern California, despite the pleasant weather here. Building a new rink with two sheets of ice would be like constructing a new park in the city and would give thousands of people the chance to skate and advance their skills in a variety of disciplines. If the city can build a park for dogs -- and I'm all for dogs -- it should also consider building park facilities for people.
Obviously, the Council had a quorum present when it voted last month on the new rink. The three opponents of building the new rink prevailed only because one member shirked his responsibility to be at the meeting. While that's loathsome and vomitous in its own right, the fact is that the Council is supposed to represent the will of city residents. For that reason alone, I urge you to vote when all eight members are present so that the ice rink matter can be resolved fairly.
Not so fast. I flipped over to Versus and instead of the game found myself staring at the image to the right, courtesy of DirecTV:
My first reaction was the obligatory "what the fuck?" and then realized I hadn't watched Versus since the Stanley Cup finals in June. Apparently while I was out to lunch over the summer, Versus and DirecTV had dropped the gloves and the testicle-less NHL was acting like a ref standing there and watching a fight but doing nothing about it. Click here to see the league's tepid response to fans.
As a result, 18 million subscribers to the nation's largest satellite TV provider are paying their bills but not getting Versus' coverage of the NHL. Three weeks ago, by contrast, the NFL opened its season with a great Pittsburgh-Tennessee matchup on NBC for all the country to see. For free.
The more salient angle to the story, I believe, isn't the current dispute but the question of what the hell is the NHL doing airing its games on a rinky-dink cable channel such as Versus? Until recently, it was better known as the Outdoor Life Network and is still loaded with the kind of hunting programs that make a convincing case that animals could be outfitted with guns.