Yes, I was up at 1 a.m. watching Women’s Ice Hockey…

Okay, you busted me.  I stayed up late last night/this morning to watch women’s ice hockey.  I’m not ashamed of it either.  It wasn’t just any hockey game, it was the Winter Olympics Gold Medal game between the United States and Canada.  What an awesome finish.  It was just a great hockey game – period.

Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 13

This USA-Canada rivalry in women’s ice hockey is pretty intense.  After winning the past four gold medals, the U.S. women defeated Canada 3-2 in an overtime shootout to end a 20-year Gold Medal drought.  This epic game was on the 38th anniversary of the greatest game in U.S. men’s hockey at the “Miracle on Ice” over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics.

After the Americans took the lead in the shootout with Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson’s goal, USA goalie, Maddie Rooney, stopped Canada’s Meghan Agosta to seal the win.

I fell asleep watching the game early on and when I saw it was 2-1 in favor of Canada during the second intermission, I decided it was time to go to bed.  I couldn’t sleep so I went back to watching the game and I am glad I did.  The USA tied the game late and sent it into overtime.  The US dominated the 20-minute sudden death overtime period and nearly ended it several times.  They had to kill off a penalty in the final two minutes to get to the shootout.

I did not see the medals ceremony.  This morning, I saw the report of how Canada’s Jocelyne Larocque immediately removed her silver medal.  Now she’s getting a lot of flak over that move – as well she should.

While watching the incredible quality of play by both teams in the game, I wondered about if this would impact the women’s game.  There is a women’s professional league with four teams in the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) but the league is barely surviving.  I think it would be a good step for the National Hockey League (NHL) to bring support for women’s professional hockey.  In my mind, I would like to see each NHL franchise also have a women’s team.  They could play each team in the division four times which would give them a 24-28 games.  I think limiting the schedule to within the division would save on travel costs and help the women’s teams to get off to a good start.  The women’s teams could even play in a doubleheader with their male counterparts on specific nights.    The top four teams in each division would make the playoffs and would play each other in a single-game elimination.  (No need for the drawn out seven game series).  I really think there should be a NHL-W.   This would be a good time for it.

The women’s game is different but just as entertaining as the NHL.  There is still body contact so it’s still a physical game; however, body checking is not allowed.  I also like it that they have a full-face guard.  It probably saves on a lot of dental issues.  I’m not sure why the NHL doesn’t do this.

2018 Winter Olympics – USA Results:

  • Feb 11 – beat Finland 3-1
  • Feb 13 – beat Olympic Athletes from Russia 5-0
  • Feb 15 – lost to Canada 2-1
  • Feb 19 – beat Finland 5-0 in semifinals
  • Feb 22 – beat Canada 3-2 (so) in Gold Medal game

Other facts about the USA Women’s Ice Hockey team:

  • The team was 7-5 leading up to the Winter Olympic games
  • The USA snapped a five-game losing streak to Canada
  • Amanda Kessel is the sister of Phil Kessel of the Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Robb Stauber is the coach for Team USA.  He played goalie five seasons in the NHL with the Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres.
  • The USA won the first Gold Medal in women’s ice hockey in 1998.
  • The USA team has won two gold, three silver and one bronze medal.
  • Nine players on the 2018 roster play in the NWHL
  • Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando are twins – the only sole set of twins for the USA in the Winter Olympics.

 

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Could These Olympic Team Sports Be Professional Leagues?

I’m sure many have watched in awe the sport of Curling in the Olympics and wondered if there could be a professional league?  Okay, maybe not.  While curling is quite an interesting sport – there are other team sports I wondered if they could become a professional sports league.  Let’s take a look at a few of these:

CURLING

curling_8This is a sport in which players slide stones on a sheet of ice towards a target area which is divided into four circles much like shuffleboard.  It involves high skill and precision.  Teams are made up of 3-4 per team.  It is also called “chess on ice” with an estimated 1,500,000 registered players worldwide.

So could a professional league work?

The sport is particularly popular in Canada, so if you have a professional league, you would certainly need franchises North of the Border.  In the United States, the league would probably work best in the Northeastern portion of the United States.  An eight-team league would look something like:  Boston, Buffalo, Toronto, Montreal, Saskatchewan, Vancouver, Rochester, Detroit.

I could not find any current professional curling leagues in existence.   The is a touring event in Canada called Curling Canada but nothing in a traditional sports league format.  There are some U.S. Colleges which participate in curling.  The current top teams in curling are:  RPI, SUNY-Poly, Oklahoma (who would have thought this?), Bowdoin, Nebraska, Yale and Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Could curling be a professional sports league?  Maybe but in a limited area.

SHORT TRACK SPEED SKATING

Hungary Speed Skating World CupThis is a sport which teams up four to six skaters on a rink similar to a hockey rink.  It is a lot like roller derby on ice except contact is not allowed.  It is an exciting event to watch as skaters lap around the rink in an attempt to beat out their opponents.

So could a professional league work?

Probably not in the traditional sense with franchises in various cities.  Naturally it would be more viable in cities with ice rink arenas.    One way I see it could work would be as in conjunction with a hockey game during intermission with teams in cities with existing hockey franchises.  Short track speed skating is mostly popular in Canada, South Korea and China.  There are no professional team leagues in this sport.

Could short track speed skating be a professional sports league?  No.

TEAM BOBSLEDDING

bobsledThis is a sport which involves two or four member teams which make timed runs down narrow, twisting, banked, iced tracks in a gravity-powered sled.  The timed runs are combined to calculate the final score.   This is an exciting event to watch in the Olympics.

So could a professional league work? No.

The first obstacle for bobsledding as a professional team sport is the limited number of bobsledding tracks.  There are only two tracks suitable for this sport in the United States in Lake Placid, New York and Park City, Utah and two in Canada.   Typically, sports which involve some type of vehicle are not organized as a professional team sport.  If bobsledding were organized into some sort of professional sport it would be much like NASCAR.  That’s how I would envision a bobsled-type league.

Bobsledding is mostly popular in Germany and Switzerland.  There are no current existing leagues in bobsledding.  With a limited number of tracks available it is no likely there would ever be a professional sports league in bobsledding.

TEAM FIGURE SKATING

Figure Skating - Winter Olympics Day 2This is a relatively new team event in the Winter Olympics where teams of figure skaters compete as a team in a short program and free skate.  After each competition, the highest scoring skater from each group gets 10 points, the second highest gets nine point, the third highest gest eight and so on.

So could a professional team figure skating league work?

Figure skating is probably the most popular sports in the Winter Olympics.  If there were an organized team figure skating league, it would be in locations with existing ice rink arenas.  A league would stand a better chance at survival if known names in figure skating were in the league.  It’s difficult to say where figure skating is the most popular in the United States or where any professional franchise would fare better.

There are no current professional leagues in team figure skating.

It is very unlikely that we will see any sort of professional team figure skating league.  It would be very difficult to get Olympic stars in a league.  The only variation to such a league would be in a touring format.

Aside from curling, most of these team events are very unlikely possibilities for professional team leagues.  While they may be popular events in the Winter Olympic Games, they would need to overcome other obstacles in becoming professional sports leagues – especially in the currently crowded sports landscape.

 

 

 

 

How Do You Milk The Salchow?

salchowWith the 2018 Winter Olympic games going on in Pyeongchang, South Korea, we all have to brush up on the terms and events of the games.  To begin with, we have to try to pronounce the name of where the games are being played.  If you are from the South, this can be quite an entertaining event in itself.  I have pronounced this several different ways and even something close to P.F. Chang.  I’m not sure I’m going to get it right.

Then there are terms such as the triple salchow and McTwist which aren’t really desserts you can order at McDonald’s.   The slachow term is used in the figure skating events.  It’s one of those jumps they do when we take a breath to see if they are going to fall when they land.  I have to admit that when I Googled it that I tried the Southern way of spelling by looking for “Sow Cow”.  Contrary to my spelling, it has nothing at all to do with a cow.

A McTwist isn’t something you can order at McDonald’s.   We have learned that this is one of those snowboarding tricks that we oooo and aaaaah about when we see it.  Yeah, I won’t even try to attempt anything like that at home.  Just hand me a McTwist with sprinkles on top.

I don’t know about you but when the Olympics come around, I have to brush up on the terms and the events.  Like asking, “What is curling again?”   Here I go to Google.  Okay, that’s the thing with the huge iron looking rock with people who use brooms and yell really loud for a game that looks a lot like shuffleboard.   This is a sport?  Can you imagine having a professional league in that?

My favorite event is probably the bobsled.  I like watching the Jamaican bobsled team and the excitement and energy they have before they turn their bobsled over on the track or finish with a record low time.  It doesn’t matter to me.  I still like to watch them.    I also like the short track speed skating.  It’s a lot like roller derby on ice.  The luge and skeleton events are pretty strange.  No way I’m going to lay flat on a skid and go 60mph and try to steer with my legs.   Where is the snow tubing event?  Give me that one.

Of course, the most popular event is the figure skating.  I still get dizzy watching them spinning around.  I have read that they one way they learn to do it is to practice it endlessly until they don’t get sick anymore.  Don’t even get me started on the jumps.  The spinning things would certainly wipe me out.   Figure skating is where we get that salchow term.   In a few days we will be acting like we know all the terms such as triple axle and salchow.  “Oh, that was an awesome slachow!”  And we’re still saying it “sow cow”.

A new term in this Olympics is OAR which stands for the Olympic Athletes from Russia.  Russia is suspended from participating in the Olympics because of drug doping violations so only athletes from Russia who have qualified and passed the International Olympic Committee can compete but not for their country.  Confusing?  Yep.  Remember the “Miracle on Ice” back in the 80s?  Well, it won’t be the same this time when Team USA plays OAR.   Yeah, it doesn’t have the same ring to it.  “Let’s beat OAR!  Let’s beat OAR!”

Another confusing issue is with North and South Korea.  In some events they are competing together as Korea but in other events they are not.  I’m not sure what’s going on with that.  Apparently, under an agreement with North Korea, its qualified athletes are allowed to cross the Korean Demilitarized Zone into South Korea and compete in the games. The two nations marched together under the Korean Unification Flag during the opening ceremony.  A Unified Korea women’s ice hockey team is also competing under a separate IOC country code designation (COR); in all other sports, there is a separate North Korea team and a separate South Korea team.

Speaking of women’s ice hockey, they don’t tend to throw down and fight like the men do.  We also wondered how they able to play since there aren’t any women’s leagues and most colleges do not have a women’s team.  That’s pretty amazing that they can do it.

We also have to get familiar with the “stars” in each event.  I honestly don’t ever follow any of these unless it is the Olympics.  So we have to forget past Olympic athletes and get caught up on the new batch.  Okay, so it’s not Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan anymore right?

A total of 95 teams have qualified at least one athlete so far, with 92 of them expected to compete. Six nations are scheduled to make their Winter Olympics debut: Ecuador, Eritrea, Kosovo, Malaysia, Nigeria and Singapore.

Well, just when I am adjusted to the Winter Olympics again it will be over and I will think nothing about these events for another four years.

I think if I can say Pyeonchang right that it will be a success.

 

If We Could Change The NHL’s Overtime Rules…

NHL overtimeMy wife and I have become hockey fans over the last few years.  One of the parts of the game that we both dread are the overtime and shootout rules for National Hockey League (NHL) games when they are tied after regulation.  We hate it.

The current rules for overtime are:

1. Teams play an additional overtime period of not more than five (5) minutes with the team scoring first declared the winner and being awarded an additional point.

2. The overtime period will be played with each team at 3-on-3 manpower (plus goaltender) for the full five-minute period.

3. Manpowers during overtime will be adjusted to reflect the situation in the game, but at no time will a team have fewer than three (3) skaters on the ice during the overtime period. For example, if a team enters the overtime period on a power play, manpower would be adjusted from 5 on 4 at the end of regulation to 4 on 3 at the start of overtime. If a minor penalty is assessed during overtime, the teams will play 4 on 3. If a second minor penalty is assessed to the same team during overtime, the teams will play 5 on 3.

4. If the game remains tied at the end of the five (5) minute overtime period, the teams will proceed to a three-round shootout. After each team has taken three shots, if the score remains tied, the shootout will proceed to a “sudden death” format.

The main reason we don’t like it is that the 3-on-3 overtime is too gimmicky and the shootout takes away the team aspect of settling a tie game.  I have thought about different changes to the overtime and I have come up with the following proposal to change overtime in the NHL.

When teams are tied at the end of regulation time, teams will alternate being on the power play.  Here’s how it would work:

  • A coin toss would determine choice of who goes on offense or defense first.
  • The team on offense would get two minutes to score.  The overtime power play would end when (A) the defense cleared the puck out of their zone or (B) when two minutes have expired if the puck has not been cleared.
  • Teams would alternate overtime power plays until a winner was determined.

I have played this overtime scenario in my head and here’s an example of how it could work:

  • Team A wins the coin toss and decides to go on defense first.
  • Team B is on offense.  Team A immediately clears the puck out of the zone.
  • Team A goes on offense.  Team B does not clear the puck out of the zone.  Time expires.
  • The next round is flipped with Team A on offense first
  • Team A goes on offense.  Team A scores a goal.
  • Team B goes on offense.  Team A clears the puck out of the zone.  Team A wins.

Penalties would be the same as it normally is in regulation.

This version of overtime would keep the game more closely to a team game instead of the 3-on-3 or shootout format as it is now.

My wife and I talk a lot of hockey these days and we both think this method would be a better team overtime.  Otherwise, we would just prefer the teams to tie and only have overtime games in the playoffs.  If we went back to allowing regular season tie games, the point system could be changed to award the winning team with three (3) points instead of two (2) points and teams getting one (1) point for a tie.

 

 

 

Friday Flashback: Minor League Football System

mlfs90
MLFS League Map for the 1990 Season

In the summer of 1989 a new Minor League Football organization emerged with hopes to be the official feeder league for the National Football League (NFL).  With the demise of the United States Football League (USFL) the Minor League Football System (MFLS) made an attempt to fill that niche.

One of the unique aspects of the league was that the league did not pay its players so that college-age players could maintain their eligibility.   Instead of paying the players, the league became a temp agency in trying to find employment for the players and provide housing during the season.

The league’s first commissioner was Roger Wehrli who had played 14 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL.

The league kicked off in the summer of 1989 with 11 teams in Charlotte (NC), Harrisburg (PA), Pocono (PA), Fairfax (VA), Palm Beach (FL), San Jose (CA), Colorado Springs (CO), Pueblo (CO), St. Louis (MO), Hayward (CA) and Seattle (WA).   The Pueblo Crusaders won the championship.

You can watch video from the 1989 championship game here:  Pueblo vs. Colorado Springs

1989 Final Standings:

  • Eastern Division
    • Charlotte Barons (12-0)
    • Harrisburg Patriots (6-4)
    • Pocono Stallions (3-7)
    • Virginia Storm (3-7)
    • Florida Renegades (2-8)
  • Western Division
    • San Jose Bandits  (7-3)
    • Colorado Springs Spirit (8-4)
    • Pueblo Crusaders (6-4)
    • St. Louis Riverboat Gamblers (6-6)
    • Hayward Outlaws (6-6)
    • Seattle Express (1-11)
  • Playoffs:
    • Pueblo 20, Harrisburg 7
    • Colorado Springs 35, St. Louis 24
    • Colorado Springs 19, San Jose 7
    • Pueblo 20, Charlotte 12
    • Pueblo 21, Colorado Springs 14

There were some changes going into the 1990 season as Bay State (MA) and Macon (GA) were added.  Pocono moved to Scranton (PA), St. Louis moved to Oklahoma City (OK), Hayward moved to Sacramento (CA), San Jose moved to Fresno (CA) and Seattle moved to Tacoma (WA).  The league limped along to finish the season as Charlotte claimed the championship after a revised playoff.

1990 Final Standings:

  • Eastern Division
    • Charlotte Barons (8-1)
    • Bay State Titans (8-2)
    • Middle Georgia Heat Wave (6-4)
    • Florida Renegades (4-7)
    • Harrisburg Patriots (2-8)
    • Scranton Stallions (2-9)
  • Western Division
    • Pueblo Crusaders (8-1)
    • Colorado Springs Spirit (7-1)
    • Oklahoma City Twisters (7-2)
    • Fresno Bandits (4-6)
    • Tacoma Express (1-7)
    • California Outlaws (0-9)
  • Playoffs:
    • Charlotte 21, Bay State 20
    • Pueblo 21, Oklahoma City 10
    • Charlotte 24, Pueblo 18

The NFL’s creation of World League of American Football (WLAF) doomed the league’s chances of becoming a minor league for the NFL and the MLFS folded.

The MFLS had some quality coaches with Ray Hamilton (Bay State) former player for the New England Patriots, Lou Saban (Middle Georgia) former coach for the Buffalo Bills, Darryl Rogers (Oklahoma City) former coach of the Detroit Lions and Walt Michaels (Scranton) who previously coached for the New York Jets.

The league had planned to expand to Boise (ID), Lincoln (NE), Salem (OR), Albany (NY) and Denver (CO) with hopes to eventually match the number of franchises in the NFL.

The WLAF began play in 1991 as the NFL’s developmental league which eventually became NFL Europe.  The league folded after the 2007 season.

Does Mike Fisher’s Return = Stanley Cup?

mikeFisherPreds-1Mike Fisher has announced he will return to play for the Nashville Predators this season.  The Smashville nation is loving it.  Judging by the hundreds of posts on social media, the National Hockey League (NHL) should go ahead an etch the Nashville Predators on the Stanley Cup trophy.

Sorry, but I’m not in the majority on this.   I don’t think Mike Fisher’s return is going to make any difference.  I’m very skeptical of this development.  The Predators were already close to winning the cup with Mike Fisher in the lineup last year and it didn’t help.  I’m just wondering how it will affect this year’s team chemistry.  Call me crazy but I don’t think it’s going to help.  While the Predators are fighting for first place in the Central Division, they have some serious holes in their play such as:

  • Turning over the puck too many times in the defensive zone.  This one kills me.  Yes, the Predators have some awesome defenseman but giving up the puck on an errant pass or getting the puck stolen by the opponent is killing us.
  • Inability to score.  We’ve got players who are supposed to be goal scorers yet the Predators struggle to score.

Sorry Preds fans but Mike Fisher is not the answer.  Coming out of retirement is not going to guarantee us the Stanley Cup.

According to the Tennessean, Fisher’s comeback will be short, lasting through the conclusion of this season and that’s it.  He will be retired for real after this.  Okay, so that leaves me wondering, what if the Predators’ don’t win the Cup or what if they lose it in Game 7?  What difference will it make then?

Trust me, I would like nothing better than the ending of Fisher leading the Predators to a Stanley Cup.  I WANT that to happen.  I am certainly not against it but the playoffs are long and grueling.  A team has to win 16 games to win the Cup.  It’s a long road.  Won’t it be even more of an empty feeling if the Predators fall short of winning the Cup?

Mike Fisher has played 17 seasons – and now another 1/2 will be added to that.  He scored 18 goals and had 24 assists last season.  In the playoffs he failed to score a goal and was injured in the conference final.

In 2000, Mario Lemeiux, returned to the Pittsburgh Penguins after a three-year retirement.  The Penguins lost the Conference Finals to New Jersey.    Lemeiux had already won a Cup with the Penguins in 1992.

As a Predators’ fan, I am hopeful that Fisher’s return will put over the top but I am not going to put the burden of winning the Cup on his shoulders.

Obscure Sports Report (1/31/18)

yu-yangyi
Yu Yangyi Leads The PRO Chess League

XFL TO RETURN IN 2020

The reports are true.   The XFL is planning to make a return in 2020 with eight teams to play a 10-game schedule in the spring.  The original XFL appeared in 1999 only to last one season before folding.  The original league also had eight teams:  New York-New Jersey Hitmen, Orlando Rage, Chicago Enforcers, Memphis Maniax, Birmingham Thunderbolts, Los Angeles Xtreme, San Francisco Demons and Las Vegas Outlaws.   There is no word if the same teams will return in the XFL reboot.  XFL boss Vince McMahon is hoping to give fans a better quality of football.

AFL UNVEILS NAME OF NEW ALBANY TEAM

The Empire strikes back in Albany, New York to join the Philadelphia Soul, Baltimore Brigade and Washington Valor in the dwindling Arena Football League.  Albany originally played as the Firebirds in the AFL from 1990-2000.  The Firebirds were very successful during their first time in the AFL winning six division titles and won the 1999 ArenaBowl title.   The Empire will begin play this season.

TAYOU LEADS MASL IN GOALS

Sonora Forward Franck Tayou leads the Major Arena Soccer League with 47 goals.   Sonora is currently 10-6 and in second place behind Monterrey in the Southwest Division.  Monterrey remains the league’s only undefeated team at 15-0 and the first team to clinch a playoff spot.

GEORGIA SWARM STING VANCOUVER

The defending National Lacrosse League champs broke up a close game against the Vancouver Stealth to notch a 16-12 win last week.  The Swarm scored five goals in a span of 6:11 in the fourth quarter.  Georgia now improves to 3-3 and dropped the Stealth to 1-6.  Toronto and Saskatchewan continue to lead their divisions.

TWO GOALIES ARE NWHL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Amanda Leveille  (Buffalo Beauts) and Brittany Ott (Boston Pride) were named the National Women’s Hockey League’s players of the week because of their performances in goal when Buffalo played Boston.  The Beauts beat the Pride 1-0 after ten rounds of the shootout. Leveille got the win stopping all 25 shots she faced.  She is 7-4-0 with a 2.77 GAA and .911 save percentage.   Here are the current NWHL standings:

  1. Metropolitan Riveters (11-0-0)
  2. Buffalo Beauts (7-4-0)
  3. Boston Pride (2-6-3)
  4. Connecticut Whale (2-7-2)

PRO CHESS LEAGUE EARLY DIVISION LEADERS

The Estonia Horses (East), Stockhold Snowballs (Central), Minnesota Blizzard (Atlantic) and Chengdu Pandas (Pacific) are off to an early lead in their divisions.   Round 3 of the season is this week.   Yu Yangyi (Chengdu) is the leading player with 7.5 points and a rating of 2750.

NBA’S CHRIS PAUL TO HEADLINE NINTH STATE FARM BOWLING TOURNAMENT

Houston Rockets All-Star guard and tournament host Chris Paul will try to defend his doubles title with a new partner in the ninth State Farm® CP3 PBA Celebrity Invitational presented by Go Bowling! Super Bowl Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN from Bowlero The Woodlands in the Houston suburb of Conroe, Texas.

Paul will be joined by several celebrities and PBA Tour stars who will compete in the multi-format event which benefits the Chris Paul Family Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting youth, education, health, sports and social responsibility.

In addition to Paul, who is the defending champion of the doubles event (with PBA partner Chris Barnes), other participating celebrities include former NFL All Pro and former Celebrity Invitational winner Terrell Owens, Boston Red Sox All-Star outfielder Mookie Betts, and Paul’s All-Star Rockets teammate James Harden.

NEW MIXED-GENDER ULTIMATE DISC LEAGUE PLANNED

The new semi-pro mixed-gender United Ultimate Disc League (UUL) plans to start play in April 2019 with eight teams and will be competition for the more-established American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL). The UUL will feature six-on-six competition (three men and three women per team) on a smaller field rather than the traditional seven-on-seven style and larger field used by the AUDL. The mixed-gender aspect of the league is a new and timely concept, as the AUDL recently faced a boycott by players due to its lack of female representation. The first-year teams are listed in a North Division with the Boston Whalers, New York Kraken, Philadelphia Pride and Washington Generals, and a South Division with the Carolina Cutlass (Raleigh, NC), Nashville Tristars, Atlanta Hounds and Florida Gulls (Jacksonville). The UUL season is short (three games per team) with each team playing the other teams in its division only once. The UUL will operate all teams and it plans to add four additional regional divisions of teams over the next few years.