Classic Dishes...

Good News, Bad News

And first, the bad news, from last night:

Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game 1
Calgary Flames 3
San Jose Sharks 2
(Calgary leads series 1-0)

One of the worst, clumsy, undisciplined, lackadaisical games I have seen the Sharks play all year. You don’t get away with a lot of those in the playoffs, so burning one off in the very first game is generally a bad idea.

Now, the good news from tonight:

Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game 2
Calgary Flames 0
San Jose Sharks 2
(Series tied 1-1)

MUCH better game. Still not seeing a lot out of Jeremy Roenick or Joe Thornton, and I was hoping I would see significant contributions from both. But I needed to see that they took last night’s crap performance as a wake-up call, and they did not disappoint. Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov was friggin’ brilliant, including one save that I would find video of and link to, had the game not just ended. Watch this space tomorrow, maybe.

(EDIT: Here you go. 3:52 in.)

Anyhow, the good guys pulled out the split at home. Would have been nicer to get ’em both, but hey.

Game Three is Sunday night in Calgary, 7:00P, on Comcast Sports Net in the Bay Area, CBC in Canada, and Versus in the rest of the United States.

The Journey Begins Anew

stanley2008_200 This is the official warning to The Four Of You that we’ve reached the time of year where 70% of the the posts are going to be completely uninteresting to Three Of You.

That’s right, tomorrow is the beginning of the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Sharks, in no small part due to a twenty-game run at the end of the season where they were unbeaten in regulation (and only two of those were overtime losses, and ONE of those was a result of the goddamn shootout), finished the season with the second-best record in the league, a franchise record 49-23-10 for 108 points, and the second seed in the Western Conference. (Only Detroit, with 115 points, had a better finish.)

As a result, so long as they don’t face Detroit, they will enjoy home-ice advantage (by the way, the name of my band in Guitar Hero II? Home-Ice Advantage.) in every playoff series they take part in this year.

And as the two-seed, they will face the seven-seed in the West in the opening round, the Calgary Flames. And because I know you care (and actually one of the benefits of playing against a Canadian team is that CBC airs all of their playoff games, so folks local to me in Seattle MIGHT care) here’s the schedule for that first round, at least, what we know of it at this point:

Game 1: Calgary at San Jose, Wednesday, April 9, 7:00P (CSN HD, CBC, Versus)
Game 2: Calgary at San Jose, Thursday, April 10, 7:00P (CSN HD, CBC)
Game 3: San Jose at Calgary, Sunday, April 13, 7:00P (CSN, CBC, Versus)
Game 4: San Jose at Calgary, Tuesday, April 15, 7:00P (CSN, CBC)
Game 5: Calgary at San Jose, Thursday, April 17, 7:00P (CSN HD, CBC, Versus)
Game 6: San Jose at Calgary, Sunday, April 20, TBD (CSN, CBC, Versus)
Game 7: Calgary at San Jose, Tuesday, April 22, TBD (CSN HD, CBC)

(And I could absolutely see Versus picking up Game Seven if (Heaven forfend) it’s necessary and the Dallas / Anaheim series doesn’t go seven as well. And I, personally, am rooting for seven games, sixteen overtimes, and at least a dozen lifelong debilitating injuries in that series.)

Anyhow, now you’re all caught up and ready to follow along with me as the boys in teal march towards their first Stanley Cup. Game on…and LET’S GO SHARKS!

Banner Day

Last night’s final from the I’d-call-it-fabulous-but-the-actual-seating-bowl-is-a-shiathole Honda Center in Anaheim:

Friday, March 28
San Jose Sharks 3
Anaheim Ducks 1
(Sharks clinch 3rd Pacific Division title)

Bring on…well, whoever winds up as the 7- or 8-seed!


Because Hot Dogs Just Taste Better When They’re $6.50 A Pop

Ah, public relations people. You gotta love them. Mainly because as far as I know murdering them is still a capital offense in most states.

Today’s Golden Slurpee goes to Washington Nationals spokesperson Chartese Burnett, on the team’s commendable policy allowing patrons to bring in their own food at the Nats’ new stadium:

“I don’t know who’s going to want to bring in food with all the great offerings at Nationals Park.”

Spoken like a woman who hasn’t paid for ballpark food in a long, LONG time.

I Love Lucy

So just a warning before we get started here: this post is going to have a higher sucrose level than much of the material you read here at Chez Fred. Complimentary insulin syringes will be distributed after your meal.

Tonight was the annual Seattle Women’s Hockey Club fundraiser. I’ve written about it before…basically, one of The Four Of You was a member of the club a few years ago, said “hey, yeah, I know someone!” when they were tossing around the idea of getting an announcer / host for the event, and I’ve been doing it ever since.

I won’t bore you with the details…suffice it to say we faced a few hurdles before and during the event, we got through them, and nobody noticed that I essentially butchered the first game. (I stumbled through a few announcements. Yeah, I’m human, but I hold myself to a superhuman standard when I do this thing.) And I ended strong, so I was okay with it. But this post isn’t really about that.

I said before that I love seeing these women, and for the most part, sadly, I only see them once a year, at this event. They are fantastic people, they are SO happy I’m there, and I’m pretty sure I could just say “Boondoggle!” repeatedly into the mic for three hours and they would still think I did an awesome job.

Anyhow, after all is said and done and I’ve reminded everyone to Please Drive Home Safely, I generally queue up some music on my laptop, chat it up a little with the on-ice officials I’ve been working with all night (who I actually remembered to publicly thank both BEFORE AND AFTER the two games this year), and just kinda hang out. Everyone in the club is basking in that whole post-event “hey, we actually pulled this thing off!” vibe, and I like that.

But really I’m waiting to see…well, we’ll call her “Lucy.” (For no other reason than it makes the post title pretty much write itself.)

I’m a horrible judge of age and I wouldn’t do that to her anyhow, so let’s just say that Lucy is older than I am and leave it at that. I first met her in 2005, the first year I hosted the event. It was also her first year with the club, and she had explained to me that she’d joined up because she thought it would be a good and different kind of exercise, and that at the time she joined up she couldn’t even skate, but she just absolutely fell in love with the game of hockey once she was around it.

And MAN, did I completely understand where she was coming from. There is just something about being near a hockey game that…satisfies me. I don’t have any other way to explain it, I can’t tell you why, it just IS. And the itch can be scratched with other sports, but never completely. There is an ethereal thing about hockey and its culture that no other sport has.

Anyhow, me and Lucy had a fantastic talk about that, and we realized that we were absolutely kindred spirits in that regard. She didn’t know what It was, either, but she knew It was there, and she knew she was in love with It. And she made it very clear that having me there doing my thing amplified It. She asked if she could have a picture taken with me, and of course I was happy to oblige.

And I left that night awash in the appreciation of a lot of people, but talking to Lucy always stuck with me, because she Really Understood. And The Four Of You know that I’m not exactly a New Agey kind of guy, but there was totally an exchange of positive energy between us that stuck with me for quite a while.

So two years ago, as athletes often are, she was injured and couldn’t play, but we still got to talk a little bit. And she took a year off from the club last year, and I was sad that I didn’t see her name on the roster. So I was totally jazzed when I got my rosters for this year’s event and saw Lucy’s name back on there.

Back to the postgame show: cue up a little Oingo Boingo and Dead Or Alive and whatnot, mill around a little bit, and finally I go back to the scoring box because we’re about to run out of music and I don’t want it picking something at random out of my playlist, because with my luck we’d get Snoop To The Motherfarking Dogg or Kid Motherfarking Rock popping up and a lot of parents with their kids would (justifiably) be pretty motherfarking pissed at me.

And I threw a few more songs into the queue, because there were still a bunch of people milling around (apparently the good people at Pyramid Breweries gave us a LOT of beer), and I looked up, and there was Lucy.

And of course, we get to talking. (She was surprised and thrilled that I remembered the picture from three years before.) Now understand I was still beating myself up a little over the flubs I’d made over the course of the evening. Not a lot, but a little. And she’s looking at me like I’ve turned bright green. “I don’t think you understand,” she says. “I’m sitting there on the bench, and I hear you, and I think “we have a VOICE.” If you’ve made a mistake, we don’t notice. We just know that there’s a VOICE, and that it’s great.”

Wow. If you’ve never had the experience, I strongly recommend having someone say that to you sometime.

I tried a little something new this year: someone (thank Glub for Internet whackjobs) has collected fairly clear recordings of the goal horns of all 30 NHL teams, made simple movies out of them, and posted them on YouTube.  (A quick explanation for the hockey-impaired…when the home team scores, most pro teams have a…well, for lack of a better term, a ritual, to get the fans involved in celebrating the goal.) So I worked a little bit of the multimedia magic that I’ve picked up over time, grabbing a few of them and ripping the audio off as MP3’s that my laptop DJ software can fire from the sound effects banks. I thought maybe it would add some big-league flavor to our little community-rink production.

I was a teeny bit worried about the sound quality, so I asked Lucy what she thought of them. And she looked at me again, and just from her look I knew that, at least for her, it had EXACTLY the effect I was going for. And that snowballed into the “kindred spirits” energy-exchange that I was so hoping for. We talked about what it felt like to sit in an empty arena and look at a clean, freshly-Zambonied sheet of ice, and about how it feels to do something you really, really love to do, and do it alongside people who really, really love the small part they are contributing to the overall whole, and about how we still hadn’t figured out what It was, but we still knew It was there and that we could never get enough of It.

And eventually (and always far too soon) it was time to go, and I walked with Lucy out to our respective cars, and we went our separate ways, but that positive vibe, that unique, unexplainable, special love for the game that Lucy absolutely basks in and that I can literally SEE her soaking up when we talk, that stayed with me. And, once again, it’s going to stay with me for a while.

I give her a VOICE. Heady stuff, that.

Can we have female pimpettes at Chez Fred? Yer damn skippy we can. “Lucy,” if you’re reading this, please enjoy your Bishop Don “Magic” Juan Big Pimpin’ Cup:

Big Pimpin' Cup

Apparently, Sometimes, It IS Easy

The Four Of You are aware that I have a little bit of a background in broadcasting; in college I was one of the radio voices for San Jose State athletics on the campus radio station. So I’m a bit of a sports broadcasting geek. You also know that I’ve been known to watch the San Jose Sharks play hockey, erm, every once in a blue moon. But just in case you are a newcomer to the Fellowship of the Four, now you’re all caught up and you have what you need to appreciate what follows below.

My brother’s Christmas gift arrived yesterday, and this afternoon was my first opportunity to open it. It came in two parts: a game I had been wanting for a while, and an autographed Sharks game puck, with two signatures on each side. Which is always cool, but in this case, I couldn’t identify the players who had signed it. This is odd for me; having followed the team almost obsessively for the last fourteen years, I can pretty much identity every single player who has ever donned a teal jersey. So I pondered it for a little while, and finally gave up. and put it aside. I figured next time I could catch my brother, I’d ask him who it was, and undoubtedly feel quite foolish that I didn’t figure it out myself.

So later on, this evening, I was watching the boys beat the crap out of Nashville, and I picked up the puck and was considering it again. Suddenly, the fog lifted and the light came on. And I got that tingly feeling that you get when you receive a truly well-considered gift, one of those gifts that just screams out that the giver was really thinking about what you might truly treasure.

You see, my brother got a puck signed by Dan Rusanowsky and Jamie Baker on one side, and Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda on the other. The San Jose Sharks’ radio and television broadcast crews, respectively. This is not the sort of thing you pick up in the arena gift shop, he had to have actually hit them up on Press Row (which is very accessible in San Jose; it’s at the bottom of section 215, but still) to sign it before a game.

As a result, to recognize my brother’s status as a stone-cold PIMP, I am pleased to present him as the inaugural recipient of Chez Fred’s newest award, the Player’s Ball Big Pimpin’ Cup:

Big Pimpin' Cup

I Hate To Say I Told You So…

Remember when Clay Bennett bought the Seattle Sonics last year?

Can You Field Me Now?

See that over there? On the right? That’s the Golden Slurpee. Nice, isn’t it? We’ll come back to that in a little bit.

This morning, I wake up, and turn on the TV, and discover the Mariners / Indians game is on TV.

So, top of the sixth, and the leadoff batter is Adrian Beltre. He takes the first pitch down the left field line, fair ball, and as it heads into the corner a fan reaches over the fence along the line, with a mitt on one hand, and a cellphone firmly attached to his ear in the other.

And the ball skips out of his mitt and skitters away. Since a fan interfered with a live ball, it’s a ground-rule double. No problem so far, and no real harm done in the game, since Beltre was very likely going to pull into second with a double anyhow. But here’s what makes it Chez Fred-worthy:

They go back to the guy who interfered, who is now pleading with the cop there for security to toss him the ball that he muffed. To his credit, the cop ignores him. And the guy sits back down, visibly miffed that this cop is denying him a souvenir.

And through this ENTIRE incident, the cellphone never once leaves the guy’s ear.

So, it is with great fanfare that I present the first winner of the Golden Slurpee, Chez Fred’s new “You Just Suck” award, now sponsored by our friends at 7-Eleven.

Sonics, Boom

As a sports fan, and as a resident of the city of Seattle, I guess I’m kinda obligated to write something about the situation with the Seattle Supersonics.

For the majority of The Four Of You who don’t follow such things: the Sonics, like almost every sports franchise that plays in an arena more than ten years old, want a new arena. And, again, like every other sports franchise in this situation, they don’t want to pay for it.

Mind you, in this case, they’re right: KeyArena is a pile of crap. It’s uncomfortable, inconvenient to get to, has next to none of the modern amenities that people come to expect from an arena sports experience today, the food sucks, and it was built for one single purpose, basketball, and that intentionally. See, back in 1994 when Barry Ackerley owned the team and was remodeling Seattle Center Coliseum into what would eventually become KeyArena, he was petrified at the thought of having to share the arena’s profits with a second major tenant, like an NHL team. So he intentionally had the arena remodeled for basketball, and only basketball. Yeah, they play hockey in there, but the rink sticks into one end of the seating bowl, making the seating capacity for the building in a hockey configuration just a skosh under 11,000, as opposed to the 17,072 they can get in there for basketball, and also making it completely inviable as an NHL arena. Thanks for that, Barry. Jackass.

Anyhow, it’s an awful building. HP Pavilion at San Jose kicks its ass around the block, and it opened its doors more than two years prior.

I love going to watch arena sports. I hate going to KeyArena. That should tell you something.

(And here’s a kick: the link to the Key above touts the building as “award-winning”. I had no idea they gave out an award for Crappiest, Most Uncomfortable, Least Amenity-Laden Modern Arena. I wonder what the trophy looks like. A golden, shiny dog turd would be most appropriate.)

Naturally, the people of Seattle, having already been railroaded into building Safeco Field for the Mariners and Qwest Field for the Seahawks (well, not me personally; I was in favor of both projects, having had the misfortune on two occasions of sitting through events inside of the Kingdome), are not particularly interested in funding yet another arena for a sports team who is perfectly capable of paying for it themselves if they really want it. And, as a result, the Sonics had been threatening to sell the team and/or relocate if it doesn’t happen. And, with the exception of a few straggling basketball fans, the reaction has been pretty apathetic, and I think one of “Oh yeah? Let’s see you do it.”

Well, on Tuesday, they did it, and sold the team to an ownership group from Oklahoma City. The same Oklahoma City that has been looking for a major tenant for Ford Center for over a decade. The same Oklahoma City who has enjoyed a taste of the bigs for the last season when they shot their hands up like Arnold Horshack and said “Ooh! Ooh! You can play here!” when the New Orleans Hornets needed a temporary home following the devistation of Hurricane Katrina.

And, like all good new owners, the head of their group, Clayton Bennett, stood up and waxed eloquently about how they intended to keep the team in Seattle. Then, two days later, he went back to Oklahoma City and told the people there that he would move the team in a year if he couldn’t get an arena built for him here.

Which means they’re gone, because the reaction of the city, even following all of this news, has been “enh.” And I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, if the Sonics do leave, there is no way a decent arena is going to be built in this city. The NHL is never going to come here, since the NHL has been trying their damnedest to get a team in Portland for years now. No ownership group is going to move a preexisting team to or locate an NBA expansion team in a city where the people have proven to be unextortable. And that bums me out, because I would love to see Seattle get an Arena Football franchise, or even a National Lacrosse League franchise, but neither are sustainable by themselves; they need a major tenant in the building first.

On the other hand, good on the people for putting their foot down and not letting themselves be bullied into paying for something they shouldn’t be paying for in the first place.

The saddest aspect of this story is this: the team could be saved if New Orleans were to get decimated by another hurricane this season, because in all likelihood the Hornets’ temporary relocation to OKC would become permanent, and the Sonics would have nowhere to bolt to.

Do I wish ill on the people of New Orleans? For the most part, no. (The people who went looting, who shot at people trying to help them, who have done nothing since but relocate to other cities and stick out their hands out of some sense of entitlement; they can die in a fire.) But at the same time, I have to say I’d love to see Clayton Bennett get stuck with a basketball team and no new home to move it to.

Beaten Like A Rented Mule

In yet another example of a sports franchise being woefully out of touch with their fans, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ longtime play-by-play announcer, Mike Lange, was let go today.

Most of The Four Of You have no idea who Lange is, so take it from me that one of the top five hockey broadcasters in the world is now looking for work. He was known for his colorful catchphrases when a Penguin would score, such as “HEEEEE SMOKED HIM LIKE A CHEAP CIGAR!” and “GET IN THE FAST LANE, GRANDMA, THE BINGO GAME’S ABOUT TO ROLL!”

Maybe you have to be there.

Anyhow, one of the nice things about having NHL Centre Ice was that I could be…it allowed me to get the out-of-town games on TV (of course, when you live in Seattle, EVERY NHL game is out-of-town), and more than a few times I’ve found myself on the Penguins game just to listen to Lange work. (He was also the play-by-play announcer for Midway’s 2-On-2 Open Ice Challenge.)

So I was bummed when I heard this, because I wasn’t gonna get to enjoy Lange’s work anymore, until a friend pointed out something I missed: OLN, the network that currently airs the NHL on nationwide cable, is going to be turning into a full-blown sports channel called Versus in the fall. Ostensibly, along with this will come an expansion in their hockey coverage.

Memo to OLN, if they are listening: Sit Mike Lange down, put a blank check in front of him, and start drawing in zeroes until he smiles.