Monday, June 28, 2010

Chicago Photo 4 - Stanley's FABOLOUS Day!!!


Brent Sopel, no longer a member of the Blackhawks, had the honor of accompanying the Stanley Cup in Chicago's Pride parade last weekend. Surrounded by members of the Chicago Gay Hockey Association, Sopel held the Cup aloft to cheers all along the parade route.

He choose to bring the Cup to the Parade in order to honor the memory of Brendan Burke. Burke was the son of Toronto General Manager Brian Burke. Brendan was killed in car accident just months after revealing he was gay. Check out John Buccigross's stirring tribute for more information. He writes about it better than I am able to.

In an interview with outsports, the former Blackhawks defenseman summed up the experience pretty well: "It was more fun than I expected; it was a blast. Everyone was fun, everyone was dancing."

I can't disagree with him. It's interesting having lived in the south, to see such a large party embraced by the city. In St Pete there was a too-doo about having banners promoting their parade allowed to hang on the city streets. In Chicago local politicians were walking in the parade hand-in-hand with gay relatives.

As someone who dabbles in photography it was a fun spectacle to attend. I snapped about 130 photos filled with fun, color , bizarre characters and just about everything under the sun, although I did miss the Roller Derby teams because I was getting a beer (sorry about that Troll!)

It's estimated 450,000 people attended the parade and everyone seemed to be having a good time. Having spent so much time in the Bible Belt South it was nice to see that no one was condemning anyone to Hell, or yelling that they were sinners. TV stations had floats in the parade as did major corporations (Chipotle and Frito Lay just to name two).

I'm glad the Stanley Cup was able to make it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Post Draft Thoughts

Having a job has it benefits. There’s the money aspect, bill collectors enjoy it when I can actually pay them. It’s also nice to be able to buy food (even if it is ramen noodles and crackers). There is also the often overlooked perk of having somewhere to go for 8-10 hours a day. You may thinking having the entire day to do nothing is awesome while you’re unemployed, but let me tell you, that wears off after about 3 weeks.

One drawback is that it has created absolute havoc it has played on my sports knowledge. I still follow the games, and probably know more than the average fan about the teams I cheer for, but it’s not even close to the level I was at last summer.

Case in point - the NHL draft. Last summer I was all over it. I knew all the rumors, knew all the prospects, even down to the second and third round prospects the Bolts were looking at. This summer, not so much. As a matter of fact once the names dropped beyond Taylor Hall and Tyler Sequin I didn’t know anyone other than Nino Niederreiter. Heck, I didn’t even know much about him other than the fact that his name oozed awesomeness and he was a big scoring forward.

So that’s who I hoped the Lightning would draft. I had even made the effort of adding Niederreiter to my spell-check. Alas, it wasn’t to be. The Islanders, drafting just ahead of Tampa Bay, stole my etymological joy and picked up the big Swiss winger. The sadness quickly passed as I finished my beer (a Goose Island summer ale) and the Lightning were on the clock.

The talking heads said that surely Steve Yzerman’s first pick would be a defenseman. The Lightning need help on defense, Yzerman was born and bred in an organization that preached drafting defense, all signs pointed to defense. Start printing those Cam Fowler jerseys, Reebok.

So, Steve Y strides to the podium and receives a nice round of applause from the Los Angeles crowd. Without much pomp or circumstance he announces that the newest member of the team is right winger Brett Connolly. Well, ok then.

Apparently, young master Connolly is a bit of an enigma. Mock drafts had him as high as 5th and as low as the second round. His junior career so far is full of superlatives. CHL and WHL rookie of the year in 2008-09, first 16-year-old to tally 30 goals in the WHL since Patrick Marleau back in the 90’s, in 85 games for the Prince George Cougars (RAWR!) he had 40 goals and 79 points.

Scouts rave about his natural leadership skills, soft hands and ability to find the net. While he’s not a formidable physical presence, he won’t shy away from contact either. He seems like a perfect fit for a team that struggles to produce two solid lines and a new coach that stresses an up-tempo, pressure game. So why am I not more excited?

Oh yeah, that nagging injury. A hip injury that he suffered last year limited him to only 19 games in 2009-10. For a smooth, skating offensive player, heck for any hockey player, a hip injury can be a dicey proposition. Will it affect his skating? Will it linger on? What if he takes a solid check?

His agent swears that it’s a thing of the past and Connolly is healthy. If he is, then the Lightning might have picked up the steal of the draft. Within minutes of being drafted the talking heads used the “home run or strike out” analogy, twice. If not then he joins a long list of failed number one picks.

Do the Lightning need defense? Yes, but they need NHL ready defense. Veteran leadership, if you will. Fowler or Brandon Gormley will be solid NHL blue-liners, but not next season. Remember the Victor Hedman experience last year? Flashes of brilliance with many, many moments of rookie mistakes. With the goaltender situation still in flux, the Lightning can’t afford that to happen.

So far the Yzerman Era has progressed slowly, deliberately and safely. He hasn’t made any big trades (although it’s always fun to hear the Vinny to the Rangers rumors again) or said anything to indicate he’s going to make a big free agent splash. That’s not a bad thing. While it might keep the team news relegated to the back page, and doesn’t sell season tickets it provides stability to an organization that has desperately missed it.

There is a chance that Connolly, James Wright and Carter Ashton could all make the roster next season. Even Mitch Fadden could get a look this fall. It would mark the first time in a long time that the Bolts could field a team comprised with homegrown talent. Will it be enough to propel them into the playoffs in a suddenly competitive southeastern conference? Time will only tell.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chicago Photo 3

Sand and skyscrapers.

I like the beach. Part of the reason I bought the condo I had in Florida was because it was minutes from the beach. It was actually within biking distance, although due to my extreme laziness I never tried. In my defense the only way to the beach involved a really high bridge. My girlfriend biked it a few times and said it wasn't too bad. I don't trust her when it comes to excercise. She once made me hike 13 miles.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, I like beaches. I've been to beaches in Florida (from Pensecola to Key West), Hawaii (there are none better), Oregon (cold, but there were horses), Maryland (goin' down ne' ocean, hon!), North Carolina (I don't wanna wait, till this life is over! Yes it was the Dawson's Creek beach), and Mexico (hey it's not in the U.S.) and on Saturday I added Chicago.

All I can say is - Wow was it crowded. So that's what happens in this town when it's 80 degrees and the sun is burning bright. It was an interesting experience, looking out into Lake Michigan and then turning around and seeing the skyscrapers of the city. Folks were kicking soccer balls and throwing frisbees. There is even an in-line roller hockey rink. Meatheads roamed the beach and even the hipsters took their time off from being too cool for school to catch the rays.

My roommate keeps telling me to enjoy this weather while we have it, because it's not going to last that long. At least in the dead of winter I'll have this picture and remember the long, warm days of summer.

Friday, June 18, 2010

World Cup Links

So since I'm being extremely lazy these days you're not even getting a post out of me. Instead you're getting a link.

Check out Up in the Air with Mike Bockwinski.

He's an old roommate of mine, big soccer fan and currently in South Africa watching his team - Argentina play. He is also the world's Karma-iest person. Case in point, he heads to the game yesterday and runs into Steve Nash. Not the first time he's run into famous folk.

Not sure how often he'll be able to update, but when he does it should be enjoyable.

Any who, enjoy.


Enjoy Clint "The Little Rooster" Dempsey spittin' some ryhmes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Through The Mail Thursday!

It’s one of those days where work didn’t go horribly, I have food in the apartment to eat and I received some mail that didn’t require me to send them money. No Bills Thursday!!!! That’s right, thanks to the play of Antti Niemi and folks on the internet I had some extra funds in the PayPal account.

That meant I got to buy a card or two. While one is still on the way from Canada, I did get a card from California. I must apologize for the condition of the photos, one more paycheck and we might invest in a new printer/flatbed scanner. Until then, crappy photos are the way to go!

What you see is a 2008-09 FabFour fabrics card of highlighted by Paul Ranger and Jussi Jokinen! Oh wait I mean Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. Nice two color piece of for St. Louis. It’s numbered 86/100 and adds yet another card to the Vinny collection.

In the offseason there are many questions still facing the Lightning and Paul Ranger’s status is one of them. After leaving the team for personal reasons about a month into last season not much has been said about the young defenseman who showed tremendous potential in his rookie season. Here’s hoping he fixed what needed to be fixed and is skating in the Black and Blue once again.

Item number two was actually sent to my old condo in Florida and I picked it up when I was visiting my better half in May.

It’s a signed promo photo of Vladimir Guerrero. I sent a 2008 Allen and Ginter to the Rangers facility back during spring training and received this back in May. He also included the original card in the envelope unsigned. Maybe he didn’t want to sign anything in an Angels’ uniform?

Vlad has been one of the best free agent signings of the offseason through the first few months of the season. So far in 2010 the free-swinging outfielder is hitting .336 with 13 homeruns and 51 RBI’s – all of that while playing in 57 games. Not bad for someone who signed for $5.5 million.

Last season it appeared that Vladdy was on the decline. He battled through injuries and only played in 100 games. Although he hit a respectable .295 he only had 15 home runs and knocked in 50 runs. So he’s already matched his power numbers and there are still 3 and ½ months to go!

With his free swinging style and wide smile Guerrero has always been a fan favorite. He has always been one of those players that you didn’t want to see come up with the game on the line. Part of the reason is because it’s really hard to pitch around him unless you intentionally walk him. And if you do try that he might swing at it anyway!

I’m not sure if it’s a manufactured signature or not, the “card” looks like it was a promotional giveaway as it has Dr Pepper written along the top right corner. Any Rangers fans know if this was part of set they gave away?

There ya go. Coming up sometime soon I review my box of Chicle!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Trade Bait! Rays' Retro Relic

So it's been awhile since I've dangled any trade bait. Mainly because I've got no cards to trade with me in Chicago. Well, and the fact that I don't have much money to pick anything up.

Today, being a hum-drum, rainy/sunny/rainy kind of Sunday, was just the type of day to hop on the Western bus and check out Tim's card shop. I browsed a bit, found some '73 O's I didn't have and wavered on picking up a box of Chicle.

In the case he had this nice looking card - knowing there are some Rays collectors out there I figured what the heck.

It's a 2010 Evan Longoria Heritage relic. Since I wavered in the direction of buying the box of Chicle he gave me a good price on the card. So whoever can come up with a nice offer can have it. I'm thinking something along the lines of a Carl Crawford relic/auto or an Oriole relic/auto.

Since I don't have a scanner yet I stole the image from some guy on eBay - so thanks random eBay auction guy.

Hope this Sunday is finding everyone well! Oh and I pulled my first legitimate 1/1 from the box of Chicle. Details of the break coming sometime in the near future.