Brooks Orpik Booming Hit on Jonathan Toews Springs Ridiculous Comments from Mike Milbury

Brooks Orpik Booming Hit on Jonathan Toews Springs Ridiculous Comments from Mike Milbury

Anyway you look at it, the hit was clean.

The two points that were up for grabs Sunday night when the Chicago Blackhawks took on the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t matter much statistically, but if Jonathan Toews – the Blackhawks’ captain – was severely hurt after taking a vicious body check from Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, then it may have cost Chicago a chance at a Stanley Cup.

Thankfully, it’s been reported that Toews’ shoulder injury wasn’t too serious and he’s listed as day-to-day, but perhaps the most newsworthy thing to come out of the play was the absurd comments made by NBC Sports analyst Mike Milbury.

“He hits to hurt people,” Milbury said. “He looks for players in a vulnerable position,” was another one of my favorites.

Now it’s no secret that I am a Pens fan, but saying that about a player like Brooks Orpik is just ridiculous. Sure, he’s a tough guy to play against and uses his body to his advantage, but the last thing he should be classified as is a dirty player.

That’s like calling Niklas Kronwall a dirty player just because he is known for his huge hits.

When someone donning the Penguins crest does something questionable, I’ll be the first to recognize it. Matt Cooke did eventually clean up his act, but there was a two-year span with the Penguins when he probably didn’t deserve to be on the ice.

Hell, six days ago I wrote an article about how James Neal’s antics are getting old.

Milbury’s solution on how the Blackhawks should have solved the issue was even more comical. Had Orpik kneed/elbowed/speared/sucker punched/jumped Toews, then I can understand the need for someone to step right up and force Orpik to fight.

Like I said, the two points didn’t really matter and an instigator penalty would have been worth it in that scenario.

But he didn’t. The hit was as clean as they come and Toews was simply caught on the tracks with his head down right before the train was coming through.

If it was 1985, then yes, Orpik would have had to immediately pay for his hit on the opposing captain, but it’s not, it’s a different game and guys like Mike Milbury need to learn to understand that. Orpik has 14 career fighting majors in the NHL, but jumping a player for a clean hit will never be justified.

Many of the guys in the current NHL didn’t grow up with the goon mentality. I’m sure many of them saw it at one point or another in their career, but it wasn’t the norm when they began to reach the elite levels of the game.

There is still a place in the game for fighting and I will always defend that, but the role of an enforcer has changed while the game has evolved. People like Mike Milbury either fail to accept that or fail to understand it.

Orpik knew that he had a target on his back for the rest of the game; Andrew Shaw attempted to take a run at him in the corner, but ended up doing more damage to teammate Patrick Sharp.

People that think Orpik should have immediately been jumped are, in my mind, the same people that don’t see an issue with what happened to Steve Moore. The fact that Todd Bertuzzi is still allowed to play in the NHL has always made me a bit nauseous. The psychology that goes on in a players mind has changed after a huge, legal hit – it’s one of the many changes that has taken place in the game over the last decade.

Mike Milbury is the Skip Bayless of the NHL and I understand why he’s on television. He creates controversy like this one, which in turn will lead to higher ratings for NBC Sports.

It’s just really difficult to take the guy who once climbed into the stands of Madison Square Garden and beat a man with his own shoe seriously.

 

 

My Goodbye Letter to Hockey

I never thought the time would come.

On Sunday, I took off my jersey and untied my skates for the last time. Sure, there will be beer leagues and drop-ins, but it will never be the same. 

Throughout the last 20 years of my life, I dedicated my life to hockey. Some of my first memories growing up are roller blading around my garage at my old house in Traverse City, Michigan, making up situations in my head. We all did it. It’s the championship game in overtime, and the puck is on your stick.

I remember sitting on my Dad’s lap and watching Pittsburgh Penguins games with him. He would occasionally have a rum and Pepsi with him in a big glass, and when he’d jokingly offer me a sip, I always forgot there was booze in it and would take a drink anyway, only to spit it out in disgust.

I met my first friends through hockey, many of whom I still keep in contact with to this day. There’s something about the game that creates untouchable bonds between a group of people. Bonds that distance doesn’t break, which is something so rare.

Looking back, I was pretty lucky with all the things I got to experience. I got to be a captain in high school, juniors and college; I broke scoring records; I was first-team all-state twice; I got to play competitively until I was 23 years old.

However, there is no accomplishment that begins with the letter “I” that will ever come close to what I will miss most about playing hockey. One thing you learn early in hockey, is how much more important “we” is than “I.” The things I will miss most aren’t scoring goals, big hits and back-door feeds. I’m going to miss the locker room, the road trips, the stories, the chirps, the parties, the heads that turn when everyone walks into the bar together, and just the overall atmosphere that is created when a team is clicking on all cylinders.

I did it for the story” lives deep inside many of us.

There is something to be said about hockey players. We’re a breed unlike any other, and it may be cliché, but the only way to understand it is if you have been a part of it. It’s never just a team, it’s a family. You will fight with your family, but when it comes down to it there isn’t a thing in the world you wouldn’t do to look after them.

Hockey has taught me more about life than anything else on this planet. You learn about discipline, courage, toughness, teamwork and communication, but most importantly it was the first aspect of life that will make you look at yourself in the mirror and ask, “how far am I willing to go? How far am I willing to push for what I want?”

On the ice, as in life, the person who is rewarded is the person who scratches and claws the farthest.

While the amount of turmoil I went through growing up pales in comparison to many others, the ice was always my therapy. You can’t ever skate away from your problems, but you can at least avoid them for the hour or two you are at the rink. When you step on the ice, life is perfect and all your problems have been resolved for the time being.

There’s a reason why it’s much easier to go to the rink at 5 a.m. than it is for work or school.

When life gave me adversity, hockey was my counseling. Watching my Mom go through breast cancer treatment when I was in high school wasn’t easy. Most of the time, I didn’t know how to act or what to say. I was a stubborn kid who refused to accept what was happening. But when I was on the ice playing in front of her, I always knew where she was. After games, she was always the first to greet me. Win or lose, she didn’t care. She knew I was happy. 

During those moments at the rink, nothing was wrong. 

While we all chased the dream growing up, there’s a reason why so many of our relationships fail. We’ve already fallen in love with the game because we know it’s something that will never leave us.

Hockey never cheats on you; Hockey never gets divorced; Hockey never dies. There is always a fresh sheet of ice somewhere. There is always a net to be sniped, and that first deep breath of cold air when stepping onto the ice is a feeling that can’t be topped.

Without hockey, my life would mean little. Without the people I’ve met through hockey, my life would mean nothing.

So after 20 years, it kills me to say goodbye. Thank you for everything you’ve given me, I will always be grateful. You’ve taught me more about myself and about life than I could have ever imagined.

To those still in action, keep chasing your dream. Keep bettering yourself. But most importantly, enjoy the ride and don’t miss a moment.

My career may be over, but the memories will last forever.

Shane Darrow is a Graduate student studying Journalism at Ohio University. He is currently an NHL writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @ShaneDarrow.

Picture 28 Blog 1 Blog 3 Blog 4 Blog 5 Blog 7 Blog 8

This picture means the most to me. Pointing to Johnny after beating Alpens in OT. RIP buddy.
This picture means the most to me. Pointing to Johnny after beating Alpena in OT. RIP buddy.

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Ohio University Division 2 Club Hockey Team will Lockout for 2012-13 Season

The biggest story in the hockey world today is that the NHL is currently locked out until a new bargaining agreement, which expired on September 15th, can be agreed upon by the NHLPA and the league. What people are not talking about, is the trickle down effect it has had on the Ohio University Division-Two Club Hockey Team, who have decided to lockout the upcoming season unless a new bargaining agreement with the ACHA can be made.

The D-2 Bobcats, who of course play in the prestigious Southeastern Midwest Lakeside Jurisdiction Hockey League, or SEMWLSJHL, have refused to touch the ice after the Gatorade vending machine in their home arena’s lobby was changed from $1.25 to $1.75.

8th-year Captain Nicholas Frasse had this to say on the situation, “People don’t think $.50 is a big deal, but do you have any idea how expensive it is to park under Baker?” He would continue to say, “This was just the last straw, they are making us decide between parking in a metered spot, and getting our daily electrolytes.”

The Bobcats, who had their inaugural season in 2010, have made great strides in the last few years. For example, their first tryout consisted of attending a rigorous meeting where Graduate Student and Head Coach at the time Matt Staehely had to make sure the players showed full commitment.

“I made them sign their names on a sheet of paper and be at most of the practices on time,” Staehely noted on the grueling first season.

Since then, The D-2 heroes from Ohio University have instated former Mr. OU, former manager of The Junction, and former Division 1 Club standout Phil Oberlin to take over the reigns, and things have escalated ever since.

“Our tryout consists of them scrimmaging now,” Oberlin said, “we figured it would be easier to judge their talent if we actually saw how good they were at the game.”

Last year, the D-2 “Bobkittens” finished an impressive third place in the SEMWLSJHL, and watched as attendance for home games skyrocketed. During a Friday Night game against West Virginia, there were over 50 people in the stands to watch them warm-up. Most of them however, were simply trying to leave the rink after attending the D1 game, but overcrowding helped the D2 team win over some fans.

“That’s who those guys were?” said 47-year-old Ron Thomas, an Athens resident for the last ten years, “I thought they were an intramural team or something.”

After making these strides, the Division 2 Club Hockey team decided that they would not continue to play until the ACHA and SEMWLSJHL agreed to renegotiate their bargaining agreement. Some of the matters at hand are:

  • The amount of pucks to practice with be raised from 25 to 35.
  • Each player shall receive their own spot in the cage for their equipment.
  • A paid trainer, preferably an undergrad female, attend at least one of every four practices.
  • The ice to be zamboni’d before every practice, not just went the staff feels like it.
  • The Gatorade Vending Machine in the lobby of Bird Arena to be reduced from $1.75 to $1.25.

This lockout could be long and devious, and the players have decided to stand by their teammates as they demand more from the leagues in which they contribute so much.

“We put dozens of people into the stands every year who don’t pay a dime to watch us play,” former football player turned hockey player in college Tyler Smith said, “imagine all the money we are generating for them just through that!”

One thing is for sure, the amount of people that will be affected by these lockouts could easily climb into double digits, but the players know they deserve better, and as the Beastie Boys once said, they will fight for their right to party.

The ACHA and SEMWLSJHL were both unavailable for comment, as neither knew this was even happening.

Members of the D-2 Club Hockey Team are seen attending Happy Hour, which has become a serious, pregame ritual.

My response to Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis

OU students and alumni everywhere, here is the e-mail that was sent out to every parent of an OU student regarding Palmerfest:

“Dear OHIO Parents and Families,

The purpose of my message is to seek your help in sending a clear message to students, reinforcing the importance of smart, civil, safe behaviors. My request parallels that of Ryan Lombardi, our Dean of Students, who has made you aware of the unauthorized multi-house parties in Athens that have historically occurred in off-campus neighborhoods each spring.

On Saturday, April 28th, a number of Ohio University students and their guests engaged in dangerous and illegal behaviors, which have been widely reported in newspapers and on websites. This media coverage has “opened a window” to Ohio University and the Athens community, revealing images that are offensive, frightening, and embarrassing to our students, our distinguished alumni, our local community, and the parents and families of OHIO students and graduates.

We are better than this!  People that live in the Athens community, whether for just a few years or for a lifetime, reject these behaviors and their distortion of what our community is about.  The City of Athens and Ohio University join with your students and their friends and neighbors in condemning this behavior, which posed life-threatening risks and harmed our community.

Last week, our Student Senate issued a resolution condemning these dangerous behaviors.  The Senate resolution supports the stance of the overwhelming majority of our students, faculty, and staff who find this type of behavior destructive to the culture of Ohio University and the relationship that binds the University and the City of Athens.

We have scheduled a Town Hall Meeting for 5 pm this Wednesday, May 9, 2012, at the West Portico of Memorial Auditorium, on the College Green.  Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl and I have invited all community members, including students, to attend.  We will be joined by other University and City leaders to discuss these serious issues and answer questions. Please encourage your son or daughter to attend.

Ohio University, the City of Athens, our students – your sons and daughters – are better than this and we must show it.

Cordially,

Roderick J. McDavis

President

Ohio University”

If you are like me, this e-mail was not only unnecessary, but ridiculous. We can not sit back and have our University’s president degrade us like this, share your voice! I have e-mailed him my response, and here is what it reads:

President McDavis,With all due respect, the e-mail that was sent out to all the parents of Ohio University students was not only overly demeaning, but 100% unnecessary and untrue. I understand that you have a job to do, and rebuilding our reputation as something more than a party school is a top priority, but responding to the incidents of Palmerfest in that manner is not at all the right thing to do.Saying that “a number of Ohio University students and their guests engaged in dangerous and illegal behaviors, which have been widely reported in newspapers and on websites,” is an egregious stretch of the truth. If you consider police officials abusing their power and tear gassing innocent students “dangerous behavior” on the students behalf, then yes sir, you are correct. If you consider one of my fellow students getting a police baton to the face and being sent to the hospital for, soberly I might add, crossing the street “dangerous behavior,” then yes sir, you are correct. If you consider undercover officers running into a bar and putting myself in handcuffs because they thought my ID from Michigan was fake “illegal behavior,” even though I am 21 years old, then yes sir, you are correct.

But most importantly, you are attempting to put a scare tactic out to all of our parents and have them diminish their image of our college, and that sir, is dangerous behavior.

Every single student that is lucky enough to call themselves an Ohio University Bobcat has an immense amount of respect for their college and their campus, and maybe you are not out enough on our campus to realize this.

As a leader of my organization, and a representative for all of greek life, the disrespect here is absolutely undeniable. Saying that we embarrassed our local community… Well sir, let me state my rebuttal on that statement. While you collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in perhaps the poorest community in Ohio, we (and by we, I mean all of greek life, as well as many other student organizations) are out finding new ways to make our community better. Tens of thousands of dollars are collected every year that go out to respected charities, as well as our community to help rebuild and make it better.

A week ago, all the fraternities on campus pitched in to help a student who was affected by the tornado last year. The kid has almost no money, works 2 jobs, plays 3 sports, and is a great example of perseverance. His dream was to have a suit for prom. So we all helped out by purchasing a suit, shoes, a watch, cologne, hair gel, etc. But that wasn’t in your e-mail was it? Just this Saturday, my fraternity raised hundreds of dollars to help students with disabilities, but that wasn’t in your e-mail was it? Next weekend, Sigma Kappa is holding a golf outing in which they will raise over a thousand dollars for Alzheimer’s Disease Research, but that wasn’t in your e-mail was it? Earlier this year, the language department held a can drive that ended up raising an 8-foot-tall pyramid of canned goods for our struggling community, but that wasn’t in your e-mail was it? These are just a few examples, and believe me, I could go all day.

President McDavis, I respect your position, I really do, but handling the situation in the way you have is not even close to the right one. Obviously, there are students that made poor decisions that day, I’m not denying that. But you are looking at a number around 25 students. Deciding to send a message with that aggressive of a tone, and placing it upon 20,000 students is absolutely absurd.

Some drunken student that was visiting attempted to set a house on fire, not an OU student. Out of all the arrests made during fest season, not even half of them are OU students. The aggravated rioting charge from two years ago during palmerfest, which is perhaps the most aggressive offense in my college career, was not an OU student. And most importantly, the people that have the dearest respect, and absolute love for this campus and our community, are OU students.

My greatest fear as a student here is that my degree will be diminished by our school’s reputation; however, having the interview skills to find a way to turn our social life into a positive is what helps me realize this will never be problem.

But having our University’s president exaggerating the actions of OU students is in no way helping the 20,000 of us who share this same fear of our degree’s being somehow lessened. You sir, are better than that.

Once again, with all due respect,

Shane Darrow
SD195408@ohio.edu
President – Pi Kappa Phi: Theta Chi Chapter

5 Reasons Why Bobcat Nation Trumps Everything

After last nights loss to UNC, my phone exploded. People ranging from Florida to California to my hometown city of Traverse City, Michigan were blowing me up (humble brag) congratulating us on our run in this years NCAA tournament. As a journalist, it is absolutely impossible to describe word for word what makes being a bobcat so great, but let me give it my finest efforts. All of my friends are business majors, and this is simply what my role is throughout this unreal city. So let me attempt to put a smile on all of bobcat nation.

OU? Oh yeah.

1. Athens, Ohio is home.

Everybody else I’ve ever talked to that doesn’t go here, describes their home as where they grew up, and where their parents are. Not here. People at OU describe going home as going back to Athens. I’ve seen hundreds of tweets (@VincentVanFlow) from winter and summer breaks that explain how badly they want to go back home. When I visit other schools, I miss how homey this city really is. From north campus to south campus its a 15 minute walk if you aren’t in shape. Where I am currently sitting writing this, I could come back in 5 minutes with Chinese food for under five dollars. The atmosphere here never seems real. The only time people even argue here is when Crystal gets out of line and the argument over whether Sigma Pi is better than Pike erupts (rush Pi Kappa Phi). There is no doubting that every person who goes to this school is in their most comfortable state when they drive in off the interstate and see that stadium: Peden Stadium. That is when you know you are here. Of course, you have only gone to one football game, and thats because it was on ESPN 2 and you left after the first half because you lost your buzz, but it’s still the landmark that puts that OU smile on your face.

2. Our unreal excuses to party.

Okay, so I understand that whether it’s TGIF or Saturday, almost every college throws their ragers. But here? We take any excuse and find a way to make it into an uptown fiesta. Green beer day is a perfect example. This day party was thrown on a Wednesday more than a week before St. Patty’s day. Our entire campus went uptown to get sloshed because the beer was simply dyed a different color. After we lost last night, I died a little inside. I was ready for the biggest riot this town had ever seen, but what I witnessed had me cheesing. Everyone was just so damn proud. We are a school that knows we aren’t known for our athletics, yet everyone pulled together and toasted to the most improbable run that no one outside of these borders could have predicted. We had faith in DJ, we had faith in Offutt, but most of all – we had faith in this school, and this city. Coach Groce I beg you, don’t leave us!

3. Nightlife.

Where else do you find over 20 bars in two blocks? Whatever clique you desire to be around, there is a designated spot that was created to fulfill those needs. There’s a hockey bar, rugby bar, football bar, basketball bar, greek bar, etc. If you wake up and say, “hey, I want to go get down with DJ Cooper (I’m shouting you out all day my dude)” I can tell you exactly where to find him. But it doesn’t end uptown. Spring corner is upon us, and while most college students are losing it about how they lost their internship due to a tweet (oh shit, that was just me), Ohio U is ready for the greatest ten weeks a college student can ask for. Gorgeous weather, beautiful women, bowling class, and the fests. Oh the fests. Our school is known for Halloween, and that is a proven fact, but ask any OU student what is the best part of the school year, and they will tell you the fests. On Halloween, we get hundreds of jagoffs who come and disrespect our campus. Yes, there are hundreds of arrests every year on that glorious day in late October, but usually only about 30% are OU students. The fests are our time, and when people visit then, they tend to respect our campus. Well, except for when we set shit on fire, but hey, if Manny can be Manny by intercepting a throw to the cut-off man… than that’s just OU students being OU students. We have two mindsets: class and partying. But definitely not in that order.

4. We actually have really good academics here

I have been focusing on solely the point of our abilities to party, and to all of the corporate folk out there that probably didn’t make it to this point in the article because you have already thrown my transcript out the window, I apologize. But to all you yinzers out there that continued to read on, may God bless you today. The schools of journalism, business, and aviation are all unbelievably prestigious. You don’t believe me? Watch your roommate go through the 8 am cluster, and then show a little more respect. The only phrase I hear more here than “I have to go meet with my group” is “I’m going uptown.” Our aviation school, while I know there aren’t many in the United States, is one of the greatest. It has been around since 1939, and has produced an absurd amount of commercial pilots. So next time you are sitting in row 35 and look out your window for a nice view and see the engine, realize that there is a chance that the man who has your life in his hands studied at Ohio University. Now I don’t want to toot my own horn since I’m in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, but by checking a few websites, were on average ranked the fifth best journalism school in the entire country.

All I’m saying President Roderick J. McDavis is that if you look beyond all the aspects that our school is “known for,” you will see an academic program that is eventually set up for us to succeed. But considering I’m a hard six male in the journalism school, I’ll practice right now what I’ll probably be saying after I graduate. “Do you want fries with that?”

5. The People

This one is unbelievably hard to explain. Well, no it’s not. I’m just imagining the look on the peoples faces who don’t go here that are thinking to themselves “I bet the people here are better.” Hear me out though sweetheart. I live 600 miles away from here, I came here knowing absolutely no one. Yet the people of this school embraced me immediately as one of their own. How many times have you walked into a party and didn’t know a soul, and then got asked who you knew in the party, you said nobody, and they kicked you out? Well if you go to OU the answer there is zero. How many times have you walked into a kegger and paid to drink? If you go to OU the answer there is zero. It’s a respect thing. When you are a freshman and sophomore, you drink for free, unless you are helping to throw the party, in which case you chip in for the beverages. In return, when you are a junior and senior, you buy and let the underclassman drink for free. It’s a system that I have never seen at any other school. Everything is based on respect, and the students that go to The Ohio University understand that as they progress through their years of paradise. If you are visiting, you will never feel more accepted anywhere else but here. And if you go here, your character rises immensely.

…….

……..

…….

…..

Bobcat nation: I salute you. Once again: OU? Oh yeah.

Ranking the 10 NHL Teams With the Best Chance at Winning the Cup

As some of you may know, after an incident occurred on Twitter, I was suspended for 30 days from Bleacher Report; however, I still want to keep writing until it is lifted on March 30th. I have already apologized to Bleacher Report for the incident and I want to apologize to all of my readers as well. All of you have been very supportive of my articles and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it, it really does mean a lot.

Now lets get to business. With almost every team in the NHL having around 10 games left in the regular season, I felt it only fitting to rank the ten teams with the best shot at winning the Stanley Cup. Lets get to it!

Dark Horse Sleeper: Winnipeg Jets

Okay this might be a bit of a stretch but hear me out here. The Jets currently sit three points out of the 8th and final seed in the Western Conference, but only five points out of the division lead. It is completely realistic that the Jets could surpass the Capitals and Panthers and gain the number three seed in the West. Blake Wheeler is having a career season (58 points in 68 games) and if the Jets were to win the conference and get a series, and possibly more with home-ice advantage, it’s not impossible to believe that a team that was so bad a year ago that they were relocated could make some noise in the playoffs.

10. Chicago Blackhawks

The Stanley Cup champions from two years ago have yet to find the rhythm that had them raising Lord Stanley’s cup in 2010. Shaky goaltending and an inability to win on the road have been two issues that have followed Chicago all season. Corey Crawford has yet to really shine since taking over the starting job, and his .901 save percentage is good enough for 40th among NHL goaltenders. The plus side here is that the Blackhawks have the experience and the star power to make a legitimate run at another title. Guys like Marian Hossa, Johnny Toews, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp have all been there before and know what it takes to win it all. The biggest problem is that with a road record of 14-18-3 it is going to be very tough for the Hawks to win multiple series where they don’t have home-ice advantage. If Crawford continues to under-perform, the Windy City will be on the golf course in a hurry.

9. Dallas Stars

The Stars currently sit in front of the Pacific Division and have been on an absolute tear lately, going 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. Dallas has been led by 26-year-old Loui Eriksson, who is averaging just under one point a game. They have also had stellar goaltending as of late by Kari Lehtonen, whose .925 save percentage is good enough for 7th best in the entire NHL. If this team continues to streak as the playoffs approach, they could really make some noise. The problem with the Stars is that their lack of experience and inability to bury the puck could lead to their ultimate demise. Their 188 goals for this season is only the 7th highest in the Western Conference.

8. Nashville Predators

Although they sit behind the Stars in the standings, Nashville has six more points (I hate the way the seeding works in the NHL). The entire fate of the Preds rests on the shoulders of their 29-year-old goaltender from Kempele, Finland. Pekka Renne has been unreal this year, his 39 wins are the highest in the league and he also leads the league in shots against and total saves. Nashville is probably not going to have one series with home ice advantage but is a very good road team, they’re 18-13-2 away from the Sommet Center. Players like Martin Erat and David Legwand will need to produce some scoring in the playoffs in order for them to make a solid run but if Renne continues to flash the pads the way he has all season, Nashville becomes a legitimate contender.

7. Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers are a team that have been streaky all year, but look to be heading in the right direction as the playoffs draw close. The Flyers have won 7 of their last 10 games and currently sit 5th in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers have a star player in Claude Giroux and that is absolutely crucial when it comes to making a deep playoff run. They also have been one of the best road teams in the NHL this year, which will be substantial considering that, like the teams behind them on this list, they will probably not get a series with home ice. Their 22 wins on the road this season are the most in the Eastern Conference, and tied with Vancouver for the most in the entire NHL. The issue with the Flyers is that they have had goaltending issues all year, and although Ilya Bryzgalov has 28 wins this season, his 2.53 goals against average is ranked 23rd among all netminders.

6. Boston Bruins

The season ending injury to Tukkaa Rask might be the main reason why the defending champs fail to make a serious run at the cup this year. Sure, he’s only the backup goalie; however, Tim Thomas will have to play the remaining games of the season to make sure the Bruins stay atop the Northeast Division, which they currently are only ahead of the Ottawa Senators by one point. But with two less games played than the Sens and the rising star power of Tyler Seguin, the Bruins shouldn’t have a problem winning that division. Their strongest point is that they lead the entire NHL in goal differential this season, with a +53 rating, but having Marty Turco as their backup goaltender is going to cause all kinds of issues. Turco has only started one game since signing with the Bruins, and he was pulled after allowing 3 goals on 6 shots. If anything were to happen to Thomas, they’re done, it’s that simple. Best case scenario is a tired Tim Thomas will have to win 16 playoff games to bring home the cup. And at the age of 37, that might be asking a little too much.

5. Detroit Red Wings

A team that once looked like it was by far the best team in the NHL just a month ago has gone way downhill in the past couple weeks. In their last 10 games, the Wings are 3-6-1, and have lost 5 of their last 6. They are yet to win a road game in the month of March and have lost their last two games to the L.A Kings and Anaheim Ducks by a combined score of 9-2. The scariest part for Detroit is that unless they find a way to move ahead of St. Louis in their division (they are currently 7 points back), they will have home-ice for at best the first round and that’s it (unless two out of the top three seeds in the West are upset in the first round). Out of their 44 wins, only 16 of them have been away from Joe Louis Arena, and past years will show that you have to be able to win on the road to bring home the cup. The amount of star power in Detroit is incredible, with guys like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterburg and Nicklas Lindstrom, the Wings definitely have the talent to win it all. But whether or not Jimmy Howard will be able to carry them all the way through the playoffs is yet to be seen. Howard is 108-51-28 in his regular season career for Detroit, but just 12-11 in the playoffs.

4. Vancouver Canucks

No surprise that the Canucks are going to be one of the favorites once again to win the Stanley Cup. After being a game away from winning the cup last year, Vancouver picked up right where they left off this season. The Canucks have all of the components that make a Stanley Cup winning team: experience, star power, and goaltending; however, they lack depth in scoring. Outside of the Sedin twins, only three players have 40 or more points this season. They are definitely a serious contender this year, but by no means the favorite. They also still lack the toughness that it will take to win the whole sha-bang-a-bang. The Bruins wore them down in the Finals last year, and their inability to handle gritty play is something that has haunted them in the past and will continue to haunt them as the playoffs approach. I do like that General Manager Mike Gillis traded Cody Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres for 6’4” power-forward Zack Kassian and Samuel Pahlsson to try and fill this void, but I don’t think it will be enough to turn the tide. I also think that they may regret giving up Hodgson, who was a surprising scoring threat this season – when he was traded he had 33 points in 63 games. They are definitely a serious contender this year, but by no means the favorite.

3. St Louis Blues

I know. They have been a great story and currently have the best record in the entire NHL and have only allowed an absurd 139 goals this year (1.95 goals per game); however, there are so many red flags that come up for the Blues. The first one is their ability to score, or lack there of. They only have 186 goals for this year. To put that into perspective, the Edmonton Oilers, who are currently in 14th place in the Western Conference, have 185. David Backus and T.J. Oshie are tied for the team lead in points with 48, which is good enough for 67th place in the NHL. I know the old saying – defense wins championships, and that case can be proven when you look at how the Boston Bruins won the cup last year. But that same Bruins team still had four players that had more than 50 points in the regular season, and the Blues are probably only going to have two. The other is youth and lack of experience – outside of Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott, there is very little playoff experience on the roster. The player that will determine how far the Blues go is David Perron. After missing more than a year due to concussion like symptoms, Perron has been great. He has 35 points in 46 games and if he can get hot come playoff time, there is no reason why the Blues can not win the cup. The other thing that gives the Blues an advantage heading into the playoffs is that they will probably have home ice throughout the playoffs… they’re 28-4-4 at home this year.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

The return of Sidney Crosby is absolutely huge. A team that has the second most points in the Eastern Conference, and is currently riding a 9-game winning streak, just added arguably the best player in the world to their roster. If Crosby can stay healthy for the rest of the season, and play at the level he was at before his concussion-like symptoms returned for the second time, the Penguins are without a doubt the favorite to win it all. There are countless pros when looking at Pittsburgh: Evgeni Malkin is leading the league in scoring with 84 points, James Neal has set career highs in goals and assists and has proven that he is a legitimate scoring threat, Marc-Andre Fleury has been phenominal with a record of 37-14-6, they have the 5th best powerplay percentage (19.7%) as well as the second best penalty kill percentage (89.4%), and are tied for third in the NHL for the most goals for (219). So how can they not be the favorites as of right now? Well, they’re an average team on the road, just 18-13-3 this year, and the only team that has been playing better hockey than them this season just so happens to be in the same division…

1. New York Rangers

How fitting that the first game in which Sidney Crosby will play since December 5th happens to be against the Eastern Conference leading New York Rangers. They are currently 44-18-7 and would have an even better record if they weren’t 3-7 in overtimes and shootouts. Every aspect is accounted for. Scoring? Check. Goaltending? Check. Experience? Check. Star Power? Check. On paper the Rangers are scary good, but this has been the case for many years and they’ve failed to win the Stanley Cup. They are in my mind without a doubt the favorite heading into the playoffs, but by no means a lock to win it all. The one thing that worries me about the Rangers? Their powerplay percentage is only 14.6%, which is the worst in the Eastern Conference, and the 3rd worst percentage in the entire NHL. Special teams is huge in the playoffs. They have a great penalty kill, but if they can’t find a way to bury the puck on the man advantage they could find themselves in some trouble.

A crazy playoff scenario? If the standings stay the way they are at leagues end, and the 1-4 seeds in the Eastern Conference all win their first round series, the Rangers would play the Penguins in the second round. One of arguably the two best teams in the entire NHL heading into the playoffs would be eliminated before the conference finals.

What do you guys think? Do you agree or disagree?

 

The 10 (Active) Athletes We Love to Hate

Merry Christmas! Today is a day where we should all be thankful for our friends and families. It’s a day where we shove our faces at Christmas dinner and have the exact same conversation about what were doing with our lives about 15 times with different relatives. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to attend a Christmas party and have that conversation another 30 times. But I want to focus on something that makes us all happy, watching athletes we hate get beaten. The Bills 40-14 destruction of Tim Tebow and the Broncos yesterday prompted me to lay out a feast of hatred for my readers. Enjoy.

Honorable Mentions:

Tim Tebow, Albert Haynesworth, Alex Ovechkin, Sean Avery, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Kurt Busch, Alex Burrows, Cristiano Ronaldo.

10. Ron Artest … I’m Sorry: Metta World Peace (Los Angeles Lakers)

Oh yeah, he's a rapper too.

Talk about a class act, Artest apparently changed his name to Metta World Peace in order to help “inspire the youth.” Coming from the guy who jumped in the stands at the Palace in Detroit and started one of the biggest brawls in sports ever, and coming from a guy who thanked his psychiatrist after winning the NBA championship a few years ago, I find this hard to believe. There is never an excuse to attack fans, unless you’re Mike Milbury (the Boston Bruins shoe incident from 1979)… because that was just hysterical. A main reason why Artest is an athlete you love to hate is because he just lives in his own little world, and has absolutely no sense of reality, or respect.

9. Chad OchoCinco (New England Patriots)

Another guy who decided to change his last name for no particular reason at all, OchoCinco has been a player that sports fans have loved to hate for years. OchoCinco is one of the arrogant athletes who hit his prime for about a season but his mouth never stopped running. His over the top press conferences, ridiculous touchdown celebrations, and outrageous reality show moments are just the tip of the iceberg on why fans love to hate him. The fact that he is in New England now, a team hated pretty much every where except Massachusetts, doesn’t help his like-ability at all.

8. Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins)

This one hurts to write because as most of you know I am an enormous Penguins fan, and if I wasn’t this name might be higher on this list. There are many components to why Sid is hated, and I understand all of them. The first is the fact that he is without a doubt the best player in the world, and with great talent comes great skepticism. But that’s not enough to make this list, Crosby dives, he whines, he pouts, he can’t grow facial hair, and he put a javelin in the hearts of Americans by scoring on us in overtime of the Olympic Final in 2010. Now the fact that he has been out indefinitely twice due to multiple concussions, his toughness is being questioned by even his own beloved fans.

7. Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers)

One of the cockiest athletes in America, Rivers is another guy who is unbelievably unprofessional when it comes to making big plays. Talking trash to players is one thing, but Rivers has been caught multiple times talking trash to opposing coaches, which is highly frowned upon at any level. For a guy who has never won a ring, and never really came close for that matter, it’s enjoyable as a sports fan to watch such a cocky athlete continuously go downhill. The fact that the Chargers are 7-8 this year has even the public in San Diego whether or not he should stay or go.

6. Phil Mickelson/Tiger Woods (PGA Tour)

Accused of Adultery vs. Accused of being an Arrogant Prick

It is tough to say who golf fans love to hate more when it’s between Tiger and Phil. If you aren’t a huge follower of the sport you might wonder why someone could hate the pudgy, lovable lefty. Well, let me clear that up for you. Mickelson is known around tour for having almost zero respect for any other player that he tees up with. He is also notorious for his outrageous sports betting that he checks on his smart phone throughout rounds, and gives off that arrogant presence that isn’t really acceptable in a gentleman’s sport like golf. Take in mind that Woods is still heavily loved by fans, and Mickelson used to be his biggest threat to take away tournament victories from him, and you find a guy that a lot of fans love to watch hit the ball in the lake. Oh, and the fact that lefty’s wife is a bombshell doesn’t help his case. Tiger on the other hand… well do I even need to explain myself? He committed a disgusting amount of adultery and it cost him his wife, his image, multiple endorsements, and tens of millions of dollars. It always is Team Phil or Team Tiger. Pick your side.

5. Michael Vick (Philadelphia Eagles)

The guy got convicted of dog fighting… come on. He might be one of the most electrifying players in the game today, but he is also someone who at one point in time was the most screwed up loyally. Drive drunk and kill a man? America forgets, just ask Donte Stallworth. But kill a bunch of innocent dogs, now that’s just isn’t American.

4. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)

When you think of crimes that are worse than holding your own dog fighting ring, only a few come to mind, one of those being

Ben, I know you're in the NFL but how could you cheat on her!?

rape. On the field, Roethlisberger is one of the toughest, and most feared quarterbacks by opposing defenses. In nightclubs, I’m pretty sure he is equally feared by opposing bachelorettes. Roethlisberger has never spent a night behind bars, yet he has been convicted of sexual assualt twice. Outside of Pittsburgh, he is the NFL player that sports fans love to hate the most.

3. Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers)

If there is anything that Kobe has taught us, it’s if you ever get caught cheating on your wife, while being accused of rape at the same time, just buy your wife a $4 million diamond ring and you’ll be fine. Don’t have that kind of money? Tough luck bud, and enjoy your time behind bars. On the court, Kobe is looked at as a ball hog and a guy whose selfish mistakes can cost his team victories, although he is still one of, if not the best player in the league right now. But no one likes a rapist, which is why Kobe is hated with immense passion throughout the United States.

2. Alex Rodriguez (New York Yankees)

First off, he’s a Yankee, and they’re only loved by people that are from a certain part of New York, because pretty much the rest of the world hates that money pumping franchise to death. Then take into account the fact that he used steroids, which in my mind should have much more severe punishments for infringements, then take into account that he has dated the likes of Cameron Diaz, Elaine Spottswood, and Kate Hudson (just to name a few). Finally, understand that a man who was found guilty of cheating (by taking steroids) in America’s past time gets paid $32,000,000 a year… if you didn’t hate him before, you should now. Oh, and he only hit .276 last year and only played in 99 games, which means he got paid $323,232 per game.

1. Lebron James (Clev… I mean Miami Heat)

 

Welcome to Cleveland.

I could write a novel on why this guy is hated. I’ve seen first hand what he did to Cleveland fans when he left, and I think that people from outside of the state of Ohio don’t really understand it to the fullest extent. Cleveland has perhaps the most passionate fan base in America, yet their sports teams continuously fail them every year. Cleveland hasn’t won a major sports title since 1964, and that was before the Super Bowl era. Put that into context, there are 47 year old Cleveland natives who haven’t lived to watch their beloved city win a championship in any major sport. Lebron was supposed to fix that. Lebron said he would fix that. “I won’t stop until I bring a championship to Cleveland,” he said. Take into consideration that he is from Akron! Lebron KNOWS the pain that the state of Ohio and the city of Cleveland have had to endure and yet he still left. But he didn’t just leave. He had a one-hour special on ESPN to announce his cowardly exit. He joined the likes of Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh to win “not 4, not 5, not 6” NBA championships. Lebron James is an egotistically selfish coward, which is why the entire sports world loves to hate him.

Week 14: Start Em / Sit Em

Start Em:

Michael Turner (RB, Atlanta Falcons) – Turner has been a frustrating case for fantasy owners this season, and last week was more of the same. He only rushed for 44 yards on 14 carries against the Texans, but this week there is hope. His groin should be fine by Sunday, and he faces a Carolina run defense that he torched in week 6, where he rushed for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Maurice Morris (RB, Detroit Lions) – Even with Kevin Smith named the starter last week, Morris still put up decent fantasy numbers after Smith left the game when he re-injured his ankle. Morris is a duel threat, and is a solid flex play this week, especially in PPR leagues.

LaGarrette Blount (RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – It is tough to put someone in the lineup who only had 18 yards rushing last week and averaged under 2 yards per carry, but Blount hasn’t been completely at fault for the weeks where his production has lacked. In the games that Tampa competes, Blount tends to do quite well, and they shouldn’t have an issue staying in with the Jaguars this week.

Matt Hasselbeck (QB, Tennessee Titans) – In week 12, Eli Manning threw for over 400 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Saints. Last week, Matt Stafford threw for over 400 yards and had 1 touchdown against the Saints. Expect at least 300 yards and a few touchdowns from Hasselbeck this week against the same defense that has been crushed in garbage time.

Carson Palmer (QB, Oakland Raiders) – Pretty similar logic here, Green Bay will slaughter the Raiders, leaving plenty of room for Palmer to throw for yards and touchdowns that will matter to fantasy owners, but have zero effect on the actual game.

Nate Burleson (WR, Detroit Lions) – He would have had over 150 yards receiving last week had he not been flagged for offense pass interference twice. He still managed just under 100 yards,and he is as solid a WR2 as they come.

Jeremy Maclin (WR, Philadelphia Eagles) – He is expected to return from injury this week, and with Vick expected to return at QB, the two should pick up right where they left off. Hopefully he is the spark plug that the Eagles need to give them some optimism as the year winds down.

Torrey Smith (WR, Baltimore Ravens) – There is nobody in the Colts secondary that can come close to matching the outside speed of Torrey Smith. Expect Ray Rice to have the biggest day out of anyone in fantasy this week, but Smith should be able to burn Indy for a couple big plays.

Kellen Winslow (TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – He has 18 catches in the last 3 weeks, and the Jaguars give up more points to opposing tight ends than any other team in the NFL.

Jacob Tamme (TE, Indianapolis Colts) – It’s last year all over again, with Dallas Clark out look for Tamme to step in and become a top ten fantasy TE from here on out.

Tampa Bay D/ST – Currently ranked the 28th best fantasy defense, they are a huge sleeper this week against a Jaguar defense that is as one dimensional as they come. If they can shut down Jones-Drew, they will definitely be a top 10 defense this week, and possibly even higher.

Sit Em:

Ben Roethlisberger (QB, Pittsburgh Steelers) – Big Ben has been a top 10 QB all season, but facing a Cleveland Browns defense that allows the fewest points to opposing quarterbacks should shy you away from this matchup.

Mark Sanchez (QB, New York Jets) – Sanchez has only 345 yards passing in his last two games and now is going to see the 11th ranked Kansas City defense. This game will be low scoring, and the Jets will rely heavily on their run game. Don’t expect much from Sanchez.

Jonathon Stewart (RB, Carolina Panthers) – Don’t get too excited about his 80 yards and a touchdown last week. I don’t want to say it was a fluke… but it was a fluke. Leave him on your bench, and enjoy watching him struggle against the Falcons 5th ranked run defense.

Frank Gore (RB, San Francisco 49ers) – I know it is hard to bench a running back that is currently in the top 15 on the year in fantasy points for running backs, but look at his last three games. Gore is only averaging 66 yards per game on the ground in the last three weeks, and he hasn’t had a rushing touchdown since week 8.

Rashard Mendenhall (RB, Pittsburgh Steelers) – Remember how I said that he has to score a touchdown to even be relevant? Well the Browns have only given up 10 all year, so depending on him scoring is a bit of a risk, especially with Isaac Redman getting the goalline touches.

Johnny Knox (WR, Chicago Bears) – The matchup is really good on paper, but the problem is that the Broncos have such long drives, the Bears offense will barely see the field. Knox will need to break a long catch in order to make him start in your lineup, and frankly I think that’s asking a little too much out of him without Jay Cutler under center.

Mike Wallace (WR, Pittsburgh Steelers) – *See Ben Roethlisberger*

Laurent Robinson (WR, Dallas Cowboys) – He had a great run, but Robinson is now hobbled by a shoulder injury, and with Miles Austin expected to return this week, expect Robinson’s output to go downward quickly.

Demaryius Thomas (WR, Denver Broncos) – He is a one hit wonder, and the secondary he played last week was atrocious. The Bears defense will do a much better job containing Tebow, and will make sure that Thomas doesn’t find 10 yard gaps with no one around to cover him.

Aaron Hernandez (TE, New England Patriots) – The sixth highest projected tight end on ESPN won’t have even a top 10 day on Sunday. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since week 9, and with Gronkowski the main target in that offense, it’s hard to ask much more out of Hernandez.

Detroit Lions D/ST – Without Ndamukong Suh in the lineup, this defense is not even close to as dynamic as they were earlier in the year. There are far better options this week, even though they are facing a beat up Minnesota Vikings squad.

Dream Team:

QB 1 – Aaron Rodgers

QB 2 – Matt Stafford

RB1 – Ray Rice

RB 2 – Maurice Jones-Drew

WR 1 – Calvin Johnson

WR 2 – Percy Harvin

WR 3 – Wes Welker

RB/WR 1 – Michael Turner

RB/WR 2 – Arian Foster

RB/WR 3 – Victor Cruz

TE – Rob Gronkowski

D/ST – San Francisco 49ers

K – David Akers

10 Fantasy Football Lessons Learned from Week 13

1. Malcomb Floyd’s return helps V. Jackson, and Gates

Vincent Jackson has been a yo-yo all year long when it comes to producing fantasy points. In weeks 9-12, his receiving yardage went the following: 141, 22, 165, 25. With Malcomb Floyd back in the lineup, Philip Rivers finally has the depth that he has been searching for all season. Teams are no longer going to be able to double team Jackson or Gates, because Floyd’s speed will cause single coverage nightmares all day long. With a consistency finally established, feel free to deploy Gates and Vincent Jackson with no worries of a setback.

2. Say Goodbye to Michael Bush

He might get one more week without Darren McFadden in the lineup, but after the atrocious performance he put up against Miami, it is safe to say that Bush is all but done in terms of fantasy relevancy. He had a good run during weeks 9-12 as the starter in Oakland, but with his last starting gig a road game against the Packers, it is going to be tough for him to produce big numbers. If your playoffs start next week, and you have already locked up a playoff spot, try and trade him for someone who will help you throughout weeks 15-17 like C.J. Spiller or even Marion Barber.

3. No Heart in Desean

One of the most dynamic players in the NFL has just had a terrible year for fantasy owners who drafted him as a top 10, and some even a top 5 receiver. With the Eagles now at 4-8, thus mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, it is hard to imagine Desean Jackson doing anything outstanding. His heart doesn’t seem to be in it, and even though Vick is going to return to the lineup this week… there isn’t much hope.

4. The Hot Commodity: Marion Barber

With Matt Forte going to be sidelined due to a sprained MCL, the Bears offense is going to have to get big things out of Marion Barber if they have a shot at making the playoffs. Barber has already established himself as the first candidate for the goal line carries, and he shouldn’t have trouble touching the ball 20-25 times a game considering he did that in Dallas for years. He might not be worth a start this week, but he is definitely worth picking up to see how Chicago uses him.

5. Flip a coin: Heads start Mendenhall, Tails don’t

Pittsburgh has completely established themselves as a pass first offense, which is really awkward when it comes to the Steelers tradition of hard knock football. Mendenhall has only had more than 70 yards rushing in a game once this season, but he has been stellar in the red zone. It is a huge gamble, but when he scores he is a great guy to have in the lineup. It is just impossible to guess when that is going to happen.

6. Jacob Tamme with Deja Vu

When Dallas Clark went down last season with an injury, Jacob Tamme stepped up and became a top ten fantasy tight end. Now I know that Curtis Painter is not even on the same planet as Peyton Manning, but he is a pretty solid replacement. He has 13 catches in the last 3 games, and he will eventually find the endzone.

7. Chris Johnson is Back

If you drafted him, I hope you didn’t trade him. Chris Johnson has been the most distributed player throughout ESPN fantasy leagues, and whoever ended up with him is ecstatic now. CJ has had 100 yards rushing in three of his last four games, and there is no reason to believe he will stop any time soon. The most important statistic is that he is finally getting his touches, he’s averaging just over 21 carries over his last four games.

8. Ryan Matthews is Finally Relevant

Ever since coming into the NFL, there were high hopes that Ryan Matthews was going to be a huge force in the world of fantasy football. He has failed to deliver thus far, but the past two weeks he is showing great strides. He has rushed for over 100 yards in the last two games, and he now faces a Bills defense that has been horrendous against the run. Expect big things from him this week.

9. Andre Johnson is Done

If you have him, just drop him and let him be someone elses problem. He has been a fantasy nightmare this year. After 25 catches through his first 4 games, he missed 6 straight weeks due to injury, and now his hamstring is bothering him again and chances are he sits this week as well. Even if he comes back during your playoffs, T.J. Yates is still his quarterback, and he is way too risky to start.

10. Trade Steven Jackson

He is averaging under three yards a carry in the past three weeks, and look at who he plays in weeks 15 and 16: Cincinnati, and at Pittsburgh. Good luck. Both are two of the best run defenses in the NFL and if Jackson can only put up 42 yards on 15 carries against Seattle… I’m not seeing much hope here. Once again, try and find someone who NEEDS him this week, and give yourself somebody that is going to help you in the playoffs.

 

ESPN, Herm Edwards, and Mark Schlereth Disrespecting the NHL

I recently wrote an article on five reasons why NBA fans should tune in to watch the NHL this season; however, I never belittled the NBA in any way, or tried to make a claim that hockey is an overall better sport than basketball. I never claimed that it was a talentless sport, or that the sometimes lack of physical play leads to a belief in basketball players not being top tier athletes.

The NHL has always sat in the back seat of ESPN’s highlights. When a coach in the NFL gets fired, there is a five minute argument over whether the decision was right, who should replace him, etc. When an NHL coach is fired, they’ll just say “so and so has been fired…” Next topic. Even while the NBA was suffering in a lockout, there was more repetitive, meaningless coverage of that league moving nowhere than there was of NHL highlights. For the entire 60-minute program, hockey fans are lucky to see highlights of one or two games, and maybe one goal or save that appears on the top 10, which will always be overshadowed by a routine dunk. It sickens me, but that’s how ESPN has operated since the NHL lockout cost them the entire 2004-05 season. It bothers me, but I have gotten over it.

Over the last week however, I have been sickened by the amount of publicly slandering remarks made toward the NHL, and toward the sport of hockey as a whole. I am used to the almost daily, ridiculous comments made by Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd, but the main problem is that they are teaching the millions of ESPN viewers that it is okay to belittle hockey. Colin Cowherd commonly makes negative remarks toward the NHL mainly to generate ratings. His co-host, Michelle Beadle, dated NHL analyst Matthew Barnaby for over a year (they broke up in June), and is a huge ambassador of the game. She loves it, and she always defends it.

Linda Cohn is another great example of somebody who has commonly had to defend the sport, live on the air, against other anchors during Sportscenter. Cohn played hockey her whole life, growing up in New York – she was talented enough to make her high schools boys hockey team, and was the goalie for the college hockey team at SUNY at Oswego.

Steve Berthiaume, another New York native, is another ESPN anchor who has come to the support of the game. Although he is commonly known for his reporting on the sport of baseball, Berthiaume has the ultimate respect for all sports he covers, which is something that could be taught to all of ESPN’s personnel.

Now on to what is making me absolutely livid:

It all started on Tuesday, when during what seemed like a normal show of NFL32, a remark about hockey came into play. Herm Edwards immediately laughed at the inquisition, and then came up with the following quote: “Please, I’m here to talk about real sports.” Look Herm, I have all the respect in the world for the NFL, I really do. The least you can do is have a little respect for a sport that is followed by tens of millions of people.

The most awkward part of the whole thing was that the question was steered toward hockey after a fight broke out in a football game. There used to be a debate at which sport was tougher. You can’t compare football and hockey in terms of toughness, but you can compare the NFL and the NHL in terms of toughness. In today’s NFL, if you touch the quarterback, or make a big hit – it’s a penalty. If you push a guy after the whistle – it’s a penalty. If you punch a guy in his helmet – it’s a penalty, a fine, and an ejection. Bottom line is I am sick and tired of NFL analysts belittling the fact that there is still some grit left in the NHL. Sure, Shanahan has stiffened suspensions this year, but fighting has gone up, and physical play is still maintained as the most successful way to shut down top lines.

I almost lost it when Edwards said that, but hey I’ll give him a break. He’s as respected as a guy gets in the world of the NFL. Sure, it drove me crazy to listen to an NFL analysts say anything negative about a sport that I will absolutely guarantee he knows nothing about. I guarantee he doesn’t know how to skate, and I would be shocked if he could tell me what icing or offsides is.

I tweeted my frustrations (@ShaneDarrow), but I eventually got over it. I figured it was a slip of the tongue, and considering the environment he was in, it was socially acceptable at the time. Then yesterday happened.

I try to watch Sportsnation every time I can, it really is an informative show and I enjoy the common debate between Michelle Beadle and Colin Cowherd. Their jokes are usually pretty weak, but the show is entertaining because they go over all sports, and every issue surrounding them, and there is a lot of viewer participation. They usually bring on a guest to help host the show, and yesterday they brought on Mark Schlereth. Here is how the show ended:

During the three tears segment, the last clip was an unbelievable fight between Aaron Asham and John Erskine, two of the best fighters in the league. The last time these two teams played, Asham knocked out Jay Beagle, who hasn’t played since, so it wasn’t surprising to anyone that Erskine was going to step up and go toe-to-toe with him. Here’s the clip of the tilt:

While showing the clip on Sportsnation, Beadle showed her usual support for the fighting aspect of the game. Surprisingly, Colin Cowherd wasn’t really belittling the fight, but he still showed his absolute lack of knowledge for the sport. To paraphrase, he said that they were throwing haymakers, and if the guy in the red landed one, then the guy in the white would have been in trouble. Are you kidding me? Can you imagine if they said that about two players in the NFL? When Ndamukong Suh stomped Evan Dietrich-Smith (see how I actually know their names Colin?), imagine if someone said “Oh man, the guy in the blue is probably going to get suspended for kicking the guy in the white.” The analyst at hand probably would have lost their job.

That wasn’t the end of it. As the camera panned out, Beadle called out Cowherd for his lack of knowledge on not knowing who neither Asham nor Erskine was (even though Michelle said both their names 15 seconds earlier). It was a fun poke at Cowherd, and Beadle played it perfectly. Out of no where, Mark Schlereth looks at Colin and says the following, “I agree with you, that sport is just dumb.”

Mull that over.

Looks like there's a lot of smart thoughts going on upstairs...

WHAT!? You were a guard in the NFL, and you were drafted in the 10th round. If the standard 7 round draft was in play today you probably wouldn’t even have a career in sports right now. Mark, you have absolutely zero knowledge of hockey, and no one even asked for your opinion! Just sit at your table, and keep your mouth shut until somebody asks you whether or not Tim Tebow should be in the pro bowl. Better yet, sit there until someone asked you how to block, because that is all you did your entire career. I couldn’t believe what I heard, I mean I had to rewind it on DVR about ten times to make sure that what I thought I heard, I actually heard.

This is the point I want to make:

You can have your opinion on how you feel about sports. Different people have different opinions about different things, and I will do nothing but respect your passions as long as you respect mine. I am personally not a huge fan of soccer, but I would never publicly belittle the sport, because that is the respect you give to other sports fans who love it. To say that I have lost a tremendous amount of respect for Mark Schlereth is an absolute understatement. The immense amount of classlessness that has been shown by ESPN analysts when referring to the NHL is absolutely unacceptable for an on air anchor, especially those with no knowledge of the sport to begin with. The immaturity shown by Schlereth during Sportsnation was even taken back by Cowherd, who usually closes out the show but was left in an awkward silence after realizing what was just said.

I would love for Mark Schlereth to read this and find a way to explain to hockey fans everywhere what compelled him to say that on the air. I would love for Mark Schlereth to get in an educated argument with myself or any other enthusiast of the game, and have him explain his reasons for why he finds the sport I grew up loving “dumb.” I would love for Mark Schlereth to issue an apology on behalf of the tens of millions of people that were taken back by his comments. I would love to see someone from ESPN call him out, and have him realize that when he is an anchor for the “world wide leader in sports,” he should probably take in to consideration the other sports that the station represents.

Will any of these ever happen? Of course not. Would somebody with the arrogance to call the entire sport of hockey dumb, live on the air, take the time out of his day to respond to an aspiring sports writer who has the integrity to call him out for his inexcusable actions? No.

There are hundreds of different junior, collegiate, and professional leagues in North America alone. Every single beauty that has ever laced up a pair of skates is effected by comments like those of Herm Edwards or Mark Schlereth.

Will the slanderous comments of the NHL end any time soon? Probably not, but I couldn’t stand in silence any more. It just absolutely disgusts me.

Have you ever heard Matthew Barnaby or Barry Melrose say anything negative about the NFL, NBA, or MLB? No. Because these men have class. They were raised on a sport that taught them that.

Oh and Schlereth, if you apologize to me personally I will wish you the best of luck in your acting career. Seriously, your role in the soap opera Guiding Light really moved me… Absurd.