Monday, November 23, 2009

Springsteen's 'Wrecking Ball' best sports song ever

Bruce wrote this song for a recent string of shows at the soon-to-be-demolished Giants Stadium, a venue he has played and filled plenty of times over the years.

On the surface it seems like a fun little tribute to the stadium, New Jersey and the Giants -- but I think there's a lot more to the song than that. Here's the bridge and final verse:
Now when all this steel and these stories, they drift away to rust
And all our youth and beauty, it's been given to the dust
And your game has been decided, and you're burning the clock down
And all our little victories and glories, have turned into parking lots
When your best hopes and desires, are scattered through the wind
And hard times come, hard times go
Hard times come, hard times go
And hard times come, hard times go
Hard times come, hard times go
Hard times come, hard times go
Yeah just to come again

Bring on your wrecking ball
Bring on your wrecking ball
Come on and take your best shot, let me see what you've got
Bring on your wrecking ball
I think it's really a song about getting old, mortality, the anger and fear that come with losing the dreams and things you cherished most. And in the face of that stepping to the line and facing the ol' wrecking ball.

I know in the past year I've talked to enough guys -- and a few women -- my age who are learning to play hockey and I can't help but think there's a little more to it than seeking a new fitness routine. You want fitness you go to the gym. You want life and to spit in the face of growing old, you go to the rink and and face the ol' wrecking ball.

--Steve Hymon

Kevin Westgarth: write more or be sent to the penalty box!

As much as I respect Rich Hammond's coverage of the Kings, I get frustrated reading it sometimes because a lot of the players and coaches really don't say much. Quotes tend to be heavy on cliches or just not that revealing about what it's like being out there in a pro game with a bunch of people trying to maim you. And the endless chatter about the different lines is mind-numbing after a while.

Hammond recently linked to a blog occasionally written by Kevin Westgarth, the winger who spent some time with the Kings last season and is now playing in their minor league system in Manchester. Here's an excerpt from Westgarth's recent column:
God, do I love hockey. Even on one of the worst days a hockey player can have, when you’re getting sent down and flying away from the NHL, it’s not a bad job to have.
We get to play a kid’s game for a living. Granted, I know I did not feel this way on the flight home and this perspective comes weeks after being sent down and getting back to playing here in the American League. When you’re told you have a meeting on the day before the season some pretty loud warning bells start ringing and you know where you’re going.
Now I'm not saying Westgarth is Hemingway. But he's pretty good compared to most of his bretheren and I like his book selections. Someone should be goading him into writing more, particularly about what it's like to be an Ivy Leaguer (he went to Princeton) and a guy who is likely going to have to serve as an enforcer to stick in the NHL. Here's a link to a YouTube video of one of Westgarth's more violent fights from last season.

On the extreme off-chance that Mr. Westgarth is reading this, here's my message to him: write, write, write. Write about the beauty of the sport, the difficulty of the sport and what it's like to be in a hockey fight. You're playing in a sport that desperately needs good writing. It's not only good for the soul, but it may be your ticket to something good career-wise after hockey ends.

--Steve Hymon

Friday, November 20, 2009

Puck Boy blocks shot, suffers horrific hockey injury!

After eight months of skating and playing hockey, I finally managed to suffer a hockey injury. If you think losing teeth might hurt, then I suggest you get hit in the pinkie with a puck.

It happened during my weekly beginners hockey clinic in Pasadena. I was playing defense, dropped back to thwart a goal from being scored and got nailed on the inside of my glove -- which has little padding -- by a slapshot off the stick of a 12-year-old boy.

I continued play for a minute or two and then realized I couldn't grip my stick. So I skated over to the bench and plunged my injured member into the icy waters of my water bottle. As I was trying to articulate to Coach Tim that my little finger hurt like a motherfucker, the guy who drives the Zamboni chimed in with this kind offering: "Welcome to hockey, dude."

This, of course, was simply code for "stop being a pussy." It reminded me of the time I was negotiating the purchase of my 2007 Subaru Outback and the saleswoman suggested to me that perhaps "it's too much car for you." When a lady tells a guy that a Subaru Outback is too much car, everyone knows what she's really saying: too much car, too little evanroot.

So I gamely returned to action, despite my throbbing pinkie. I even stayed out on the ice after the scrimmage ended to get in a little extra skating and stickhandling work. Then it only took me 30 minutes to unlace my skates -- something not easily done with just nine working digits -- and there was no way I was going to ask for help.

As it happened, I had to visit the doctor the next day to get a sore knee examined. My sawbones once worked stitching up Kings players -- many refusing anesthetic -- and he quite enjoyed the sight of my purple pinkie and graciously provided me a small splint on the house.

Now that the pain has dissipated, I've quite enjoyed parading around my splinted finer and explaining it was a hockey injury. I do not believe I've actually impressed anyone, teaching me this important lesson: unless you leave a couple of pints of blood on the ice or perhaps a major organ, it's best to keep your pain to yourself.

--Steve Hymon

Friday, November 13, 2009

See, hockey always makes a grown man smile!

Originally uploaded by Les_Stockton
It would have been criminal not to post this photo on the blog. I found it posted in Flickr's hockey group, shot by Les Stockton. Please note that the fellow standing next to John Connolly is wearing a full cage on his helmet -- like the one I'm wearing. I can't stand it when I get a little bit of meat stuck between my teeth; I'm not sure how I'd react if several teeth were removed at once by a puck/stick/elbow/etcetera.

Now that I think of it, I took a full stick across the face a few weeks ago during an exciting adult over 40 hockey clinic. It wasn't intentional. One of my classmates turned quickly to chase an errant puck (there are lots of those in my class) and the stick went high and cracked me right in front of the cage. No cage and I'd look like the dude in the photo except I wouldn't be smiling.

--Steve Hymon

Hey, what's in the box?

In case you can't see the photo, that's a size medium shock jock. I actually had to order the thing online because fucking Hockey Giant only had super extra large ones in their store last time I visited. So I ended up ordering from Meaning I got stuck paying a $10 shipping fee for an undergarment, granted an important one given it's the last line of defense between the puck and the evanroot.

Which leads me to this mini-rant: would it really be the end of the world for Sport Chalet or Big Five or Big Dick's Sports Supply to carry just a little hockey gear? If you're located 35 miles from the ocean and are selling scuba gear, you can also carry a protector or two. Really! 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My sweet new socks--same colors as Cincy Bengals! (And that's a good thing)

My advice to Elizabeth Lambert: you're playing the wrong sport

You've probably by now seen the footage of University of New Mexico soccer player Elizabeth Lambert. In a recent match, television cameras caught her pulling an opponent down by her pony tail, as well as punching, shoving and tripping members of the other team.

The New York Times has a fine story today questioning whether Lambert is being unfairly singled out because, well, she's a girl and girls are not supposed to behave in such ways. The story points out that -- not surprisingly -- that women can be quite competitive and Lambert hardly owns the distinction for unruly behavior between the lines.

The response to Lambert’s behavior has been as varied as it has been widespread. Several Facebook pages are devoted to the incident. One page is “Ban Elizabeth Lambert from college soccer,” and features comments like, “This is not sports play, this is assault.” A second page is “Go Elizabeth Lambert” and urges, “If the offense doesn’t fear you, you’re not doing your job.” A third page, “Free Elizabeth Lambert,” refers to her as a “sexy butcher.”
After reviewing the footage, me thinks Lambert may want to consider transitioning to ice hockey. Not that ice hockey condones unsportsmanlike behavior -- at least outside the NHL -- but Lamberg may enjoy the increased speed and smaller playing surface, both of which contribute to more violent collisions.

--Steve Hymon

Pasadena City Council to children: stop skating, start drug dealing!

I snapped this photo with my iPhone at 3:30 on Sunday afternoon just as the public skate session was ending at the Pasadena rink. There was probably another 50 or so people milling off the ice -- including many of them children.

Children who, in all likelihood, will have to go somewhere else to skate in a couple of years when the rink's lease is up at the convention center. The city was going to be build a modern rink to replace it but the Pasadena City Council balked this fall, afraid of the cost. Here's a link explaining that momentous decision.

I was looking at all the children around and thinking that if I was a political consultant -- wait, I am a political consultant of sorts! -- I would run a campaign casting the Council members who voted against the rink as people who hate children.

They must hate children, right? Instead of providing them with a popular and wholesome activity such as ice skating, the Council instead sent the kids a hearty "fuck you, munchkins!," claiming they would investigate renovating the current rink. Never mind that the current rink is too small and that the space it occupies is coveted by other interests.

In fact, the Council may as well have told kids who like to skate to go secure a street corner and begin immediately engaging in unwholesome activities -- such as whoring, selling crank and cursing in public (a no-no here in Pasadena, Land of the 120-Year-Old Citizen).

Those kind of images, I believe, would look mighty fine on a political mailer in, say, 2013, when Councilmember Terry Tornek -- an avowed enemy of a new rink -- is up for reelection. All the flier would need is a neat caption along the lines of "Tornek could have put this kid in skates and hockey shorts. Instead he put him in San Quentin."

Who cares if it's technically true or not? It's local politics! I mean, it's possible the kid could go to San Quentin and, of course, it's possible that the kid would -- given the choice -- choose a nightmarish life of drug dealing and crime over playing exciting youth hockey.

That's all for now. But if you have any ideas for political fliers or you're handy with Photoshop, shoot me an email -- the next Pasadena City Council election is less than 3 1/2 years away!

--Steve Hymon

Tilt Shift Ice Hockey Fight

Another great hockey photo I stumbled across on Flickr. I had never heard of "tilt shift" photography but a quick Google search reveals that it's a type of photography in which photos are made to appear as if they're miniature scale models.

If that's the case, the photographer -- Paul Newton -- had me fooled. I thought the photo was a model.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Practice Shot

Practice Shot
Originally uploaded by Troops
Here's another shot from Flickr that I like. Check out the weight transfer on this guy from back leg to front leg. Nice shot. And, which reminds me, I should go to bed; I'm due to be on the ice at 7 a.m. tomorrow for Hockey 101 class in Burbank.

Skating from poofy objects

Originally uploaded by PaulMiles
I can't stand it at Kings games when the players emerge out of the stupid red castle; it's hardly manly. But I came across this photo on Flickr that I do like quite a bit because it's the goalie, all alone as usual. It was taken by Paul Miles at an AHL game featuring the Binghamtom Senators versus the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Another sign the NHL just doesn't get it

There's a really smart story on the Kings' website today by their beat writer Rich Hammond that explains why some NHL teams rarely ever play in some cities.

The story is rooted in tonight's rare appearance by the Pittsburgh Penguins at Staples Center, where they will play the Kings. Remarkably, this is the first visit to Staples by the Penguins since 2006.

This is inexcusable. There are 82 games in an NHL season and one would think that at the least each team plays in every other city at least once every two seasons. Instead, as Hammond explains, the NHL has a bizarre system in which teams submit requests for teams outside their conference they would like to host.

As a result, the second largest city in the country -- Los Angeles -- is getting to see Sidney Crosby, one of the NHL's best players for the first time in three years. That's insane. And it gets even better or worse, depending on your point of view.

The Kings this year are playing well. So is Pittsburgh, coming off its Stanley Cup win in June. But as of 10 a.m. Thursday, there are still plenty of seats for sale on Ticketmaster. And the Ducks didn't sell out their game against Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

There's something wrong here. Hockey isn't being marketed well in So Cal, local rinks aren't doing enough to get more people involved and not enough is being done in my opinion to make attending the games a must-see experience. I tried watching the World Series the other night and fell into a coma after watching Andy Pettite try to pick off Jimmy Rollins. Hockey doesn't have that problem, but the league can't fill its seats.


--Steve Hymon

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Kings fans to Stanley Cup champs -- yawn!

I just received an email from the Kings this morning about tickets still being available for Thursday night's game against the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Sure enough, I clicked over to the Ticketmaster site and there appear to be a lot of tickets available for the game.

This is the Penguins' only game in L.A. this season, so it's a rare chance to see Sidney Crosby and Co. play. Plus the Kings are faring well so far this season -- funny what happens when the team realizes scoring some goals is a good thing.

I've been to three games this season and two of them had significant swaths of empty seats. I don't know if it's just this is early in the season and the Kings were up against the Dodgers, Angels and USC football. Or maybe it's just that the Kings don't remain much of a draw. I know if I ran the team I'd be thinking long and hard about what it takes to create a fan base here -- and I'd be thinking that playing thrasher music at high levels during games and running strobe lights isn't quite doing the trick.

In any event, I'm going to the game tomorrow night and Saturday against Nashville -- in a luxury box! -- and am stoked to watch some professional hockey despite all the stupid music and strobe lights that the Kings feel is necessary to make the game exciting.

--Steve Hymon

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Puck Boy forgoes skating for hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park

Orderville Canyon
Originally uploaded by hymon.sheer

No skating for me today. Instead I practiced my crossovers wading across the Virgin River in the Narrows of Zion National Park.

It actually was pretty good practice, as often times I had to move laterally across the water, picking up one foot and crossing it over the other.

Plus, and don't get me wrong, the scenery was a tad bit better than your average ice rink. Water temps were running about 50 degrees and I had to wear dry pants, neoprene socks and special canyoneering shoes that were grippy.

I would rate the Narrows as one of the best hikes I've ever taken in a national park -- and I've done a fair amount of hiking in our parks. The accompanying photo was taken in Orderville Canyon, a tributary of the Virgin River.

Here's a link to some other photos from the Narrows on my Flickr page.
--Steve Hymon