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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!


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

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.

The One Where The Sharks Learn A P.R. Lesson

According to a post on the Yahoogroup dedicated to the San Jose Sharks, the season ticket renewal packages for the 2006-07 season are starting to trickle in. Emblazoned on the front:

We Can’t Wait Until Next Fall!

This is a significant improvement over the slogan on the packages that went out for the 2003-04 campaign, hot on the heels of a 73 point last-place performance in the 2002-03 season:

Somebody’s Gonna Pay For Last Year!

Goodnight, Everybody

Western Conference Semifinal
San Jose Sharks 0
Edmonton Oilers 2
(Oilers win series 4-2)

Congratulations to the Edmonton Oilers and their fans, who owned us both on the ice and in the stands…that crowd at Rexall Place was HOT tonight.

I suppose there’s an upside; this frees up my Friday.



Western Conference Semifinal
Edmonton Oilers 6
San Jose Sharks 3
(Oilers lead series 3-2)

The worst hockey I have seen the Sharks play this year, and before the Thornton trade, they played some BAD hockey. Defensive breakdowns, bad goaltending, stupid penalties, the whole deal. It’s time to prepare the ceremonial fork, because I’m pretty sure they’re done. Which is fine; really, they weren’t supposed to MAKE the playoffs, much less get this far, so if my gut is right and this IS the end of the road, I’m at peace with that.

Plus if they lose Wednesday, I don’t have to stay home from my game night on Friday only to have my heart broken.

Nonetheless, there is still a Game Six to be played in Edmonton, it will happen Wednesday night at 6:00P PDT, and will be available for viewing on OLN (who will be carrying CBC‘s feed and interjecting stuff from their own studios during intermissions), and Comcast will have the game for anyone with broadband Internet access on Hockey Live.


With apologies for the late report, from Friday night in Edmonton:

Western Conference Semifinal
San Jose Sharks 3
Edmonton Oilers 6
(Series tied 2-2)

Frankly, they needed a drubbing. Things were getting too easy, and they needed a reminder that you can NEVER let up in the playoffs. If we have a lead in the third period tonight, and they STILL play it like it’s one long penalty kill, I’ll be fairly pissed off.

Game Five is tonight at The Tank. 7:00P PDT. Watch on OLN. Or CBC. Or Listen on the Sharks website. Just be there.

(And a special advance notice, so you can clear your schedules…Wednesday night’s Game Six from Edmonton will be available for viewing on the Internet as well, on Comcast’s Hockey Live service, which they have opened up for the playoffs to everyone, not just Comcast’s Internet customers. Game time is 6:00P PDT. So even if you don’t have cable, if you have so much as broadband, you have no excuse. :))

No Sleep ‘Til…

Today was a Starbucks morning on the way to work, and here’s why:

Western Conference Semifinal
San Jose Sharks 2
Edmonton Oilers 3
(F/3OT, Sharks lead best-of-seven series 2-1)

Yep. Three overtimes. And these aren’t pansy-assed NBA five-minute overtimes, these are FULL 20-MINUTE PERIODS. The game-winner was scored at roughly 11:45 local time, which means the game took a little under five hours.

The average game, you’re out the door in roughly two and a half. Everybody, say it together with me: Oy.

I was minorly bummed when Shawn Horcoff scored at 2:24 of the third extra session to win it (especially because this gives Edmonton momentum I really didn’t want them to have), but mostly I was relieved that I was gonna be able to go to sleep. Still, I wouldn’t trade playoff hockey for anything in the world. It is the BEST.

Game Four? Friday night, 5:00P PDT, on OLN and CBC. I’ll be out with my gamer geeks at Microsoft, but I’ll have the Tivo rolling and my cellphone will be updating me with scores, so cheer extra loud for me, ‘kay?

Holding Serve

Western Conference Semifinal
Edmonton Oilers 1
San Jose Sharks 2
(Sharks lead best-of-seven series 2-0)

A very dominant defensive game on behalf of Los Tiburones, and I have to think that Edmonton has no idea if they can do anything to beat this team. I’m feeling good about this.

The series moves to Rexall Place in Edmonton for Game Three, Wednesday night, 7:00P PDT, on both OLN and CBC.