Tuesday, February 26, 2008

56 ways to "Improve" the NHL All Star Game

On January 27th, 2008, the NHL held the 56th Annual All Star Game (and Skills Competition). As a big hockey fan, I can't help but be bombarded with NHL All Star news and coverage each year. But year after year, I become less and less interested. At this point, I had stopped watching the All Star game, and pretty much just watch the All Star Skills Competition, and this year, even that didn't seem interesting enough for me to tune in.
I did however happen to be flipping channels during the last 20 minutes of the Skills Competition, and I happened to catch the new breakaway format they adopted this season. Instead of just a shootout contest, they added a new twist, by having a panel of 4 judges who saw and watched each players attempted goal, and then gave them a score of 1 - 10, giving points for scoring, as well as flash. Players were trying all sorts of wacky stuff including spinning with the puck, dropping to their knees and sliding in on goal, and flipping the puck up in the air and trying to bat it out of the air like a baseball. It all make for a fun and exciting event.
After catching just the end of this event, I really wanted to see the complete 2 hour Skills Competition, and after checking my online TV guide I found that it was not being repeated... drat!
Luckily, both the All Star Game and Skills Competition both showed up on iTunes recently, so I promptly purchased the Skills Comp and sat in front of my computer watching it from beginning to end. Great stuff!
That said, I still didn't watch the All Star Game.
It looks like I am not the only one who didn't tune into the All Star Game. Here is what The Hockey News had to say in their January 22, 08 issue, about the All Star Game, along with a list of 56 ways to save the All Star Game:

Let’s bring back some luster to the one and only contest that’s supposed to feature the best of the NHL

We came up with 56 solutions to fix the NHL’s marquee-game-that-really-doesn’t-mean-at-all.

And since the NHL All-Star Game (the 56th edition of which is in Atlanta on Jan.27) is meant as a fun weekend for the fans, players and sponsors - oh, the sponsors - alike, we tried to inject a little playfulness into the proceedings. Some suggestions are serious - like, let’s kill the conference versus conference format for ... any other format - while some are brainchilds that might have you thinking we played the game without a helmet for too many years. No matter. The hope is the NHL will embrace the event as a chance to showcase not only its great players, but its great personalities as well. And if we can improve the actual on-ice product in the meantime, well, it’s about time.

1. Change the format. How about introducing Age Rage, with the enthusiastic under-30 guys going up against the crotchety over-30 crowd.

2. Or, stars from the 15 northern-most teams versus stars from the 15 southern-most teams. Let’s get geographical on their ices …

3. Or, the left-handed shot all-stars versus the right-handed shot all-stars.

4. Or, the visor-wearing all-stars versus the all-stars who, for some reason, doesn’t wear visors.

5. Or, the offensive all-stars versus the defensive specialist all-stars.

6. Or … well, you get the point. Change. The. Format.

7. Mic up every player and broadcast the best clips during breaks in the action. To take it a step further, have stretches – while the game is being played – where the only audio is on-ice chatter.

8. Have all the players stay in the same hotel. On the same floor. With a 24-hour reality TV crew on hand.

9. Have AC/DC and Nickelback perform. They’re the only two bands that hockey players listen to. Might as well give them what they want.

10. Instead of a 60-minute game, hold mini-tournaments in which players are grouped based on their junior teams. Oshawa vs. Kladno, Kamloops vs. Boston College, Red Army vs. Modo, etc.

11. More commercials featuring players as fun individuals (remember the NHL’s prank ad last year – “Ovechkin!”) instead of boring automatons.

12. Invite top junior and college players to the skills competition (John Tavares vs. Marty Turco in a shootout drill, followed by Alex Ovechkin vs. Simeon Varlamov).

13. New kills competition: Bodychecking. Imagine Dion Phaneuf vs. Shea Weber in the final, skating full force into a tackling dummy – whoever makes it fly the furthest, wins. Seriously … fans would go nuts.

14. Shootout contest with judges (Denis Savard, Wayne Gretzky, Mike Myers) and mediocre-goalies-turned-VIPs in net (Darren Pang, Garth Snow, Glenn Healy).

15. Fix the ballot nomination process (there was no Patrick Kane or Sergei Gonchar on the ticket this season, despite the fact the list was finalized in early November).

16. Give the players real incentive to win: the MVP gets a car and is exempt from all media requests.

17. Make the skills competition more like the old Showdown in the 1970s – player vs. player instead of conference vs. conference. Crown an overall winner and give him a car, too.

18. A shootout championship, featuring the regular season leaders in shootout goals vs. the goalies who have the best shootout stats.

19. Bigger nets!

20. Small nets!

21. Play 4-on-4 – if not for the entire game, at least the last five minutes of each period.

22. Assign each period a point value. For example, winning the first period is worth one point, the second two points and the third three points. That keeps the game interesting should the score be lopsided entering the third.

23. As a nod to defense – the grossly under-appreciated all-star trait that is grossly over-appreciated in regular season games – award bonus points for blocked shots and takeaways/intercepted passes. Accumulated a pre-determined total and you get a penalty shot as a reward.

24. Go back to the old-style meshing on the nets so the twine actually budges when a goal is scored.

25. Have a celebrity or hockey legend do the PA announcing on goal calls.

26. Dispense with the conference jerseys and go with throwback sweaters. The home team wears a throwback from the host city – this year, you could bring back the old Atlanta Flames look – while the visitors’ shirt is chosen online by the fans. (Our first vote would be for the California Golden Seals).

27. Forget the two-referee system – try the no-referee system. Rarely is there a penalty and it’s not like Jason Spezza is gonna go after Henrik Zetterberg. (Or is he …?)

28. Play the game on international ice. Give those all-stars room to move.

29. The winning conference gets home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup final.

30. Copy the Young Stars Game. No faceoffs.

31. Two words: More cheerleaders!

32. Two more words: No cheerleaders!

33. Play music during the action.

34. Every penalty, anywhere on the ice, results in a penalty shot.

35. Bring back the glowing puck.

36. Just kidding.

37. After giving up a goal, you get to steal a player from the other team.

38. No bluelines.

39. No icing the puck on penalty kills

40. Like billiards, street basketball or Owen Nolan, if you don’t call your shot, it doesn’t count.

41. Play the game in Europe. Or a non-NHL North American city.

42. Secure sponsors to put up a financial bounty that’s big enough to impress even today’s multi-millionaires. Winning side takes all.

43. Forget trying to cut back on goals; go for broke. Eliminate goalies and make it like novice hockey where each skater takes a two-minute turn standing in the crease.

44. Maximize exposure by making the game a 15-minute contest during halftime at the Super Bowl. Invite Janet Jackson to preside over the ceremonial faceoff. But not Jastin Timberlake. Let’s keep the malfunctions to a minimum.

45. The Sean Avery Exemption: Each conference elects two agitators to liven up the game. The catch, though, is the shift disturbers actually represent the conference they don’t play in, so the guys who see them so often during the regular season – and have a good healthy hate on for them – get a chance to get in an all-star whack.

46. Scrap the Young Guns game; instead, make Kevin Lowe and Brian Burke team captains and have them select the remaining 28 GMs for a good, hate-filled game of 4-on-4. Just keep the shifts short.

47. Play it outdoors.

48. Play it after the season is over.

49. Play it in the pre-season. Fans are hungry for hockey after three long summer months … and anything that spices up the exhibition schedule is welcome.

50. Play it like they did back in the day: an all-star team vs. the previous season’s Stanley Cup champion.

51. Bring back the goalie helmet cam.

52. Have a shootout – everybody shoots – before the game and spot the winning team a 1-0 lead.

53. Borrow an idea from major junior’s Top Prospects Game and put celebrity coaches behind the bench. How about Stephen Harper and George W. Bush – what else are they doing? – on one team and Denis Leary and Pamela Anderson on the other. (Wonder who the fan favorite will be?)

54. Let’s see how talented these “all-stars” really are; intermission should be a talent show, where the players bust out the coolest moves they’ve got that are completely unrelated to hockey. Sure, they can blast slapshots 100 miles an hour, but can any of them juggle … skates?

55. Mandatory trash-talking. Who wouldn’t want to see Ilya Kovalchuk and Jarome Ignla fact-to-face, boxing weight-in style, at a pre-game press conference trading taunts and goal-scorers’ smirks?

56. Ah, what the heck, let’s see what happens if they throw two pucks on the ice instead of the usual boring, old one. Or, maybe one puck in the first period, two in the second and three in the third. Could make for some cool hat tricks …

Monday, February 25, 2008

Little Golden Book Monday #45

Today's Little Golden Book comes from my Son Kaden's collection. He may not even be three years old yet, but already he has a sizable book collection and has many favorites, including this Little Golden Book about Fire Engines.
The book is originally from 1950, and the illustrations are absolutely wonderful. Both myself and my wife had had to read this book many times again and again, as Kaden just can't get enough of the brave fire fighters.
As far as Kaden is concerned, the book has firemen, firetrucks and a firedog... what more do you need in a book?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Little Golden Book Monday #44

Tonights Little Golden Book is Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger, a story by A. A. Milne.
I was never a big fan of Winnie-the-Pooh as a child and now that Pooh has moved into the Country Bear digs at Disneyland, sending the bears packing, I have to saw that I am even less of a fan - if not somewhat annoyed at the chubby, tubby little bear.
I do like the artwork in the book, and the cover illustration has a nice retro feel to it. I much prefer the retro Pooh look to the more updated look of more recent years.
I just can't get other the fact that Winnie and his friends have forever removed the Country Bear Jamboree from Critter Country in California. I know that I can still partake of the Country Bear fun in Florida, but knowing that Winnie has taken over in California's Critter Country, means I will probably never head into the part of the park again.
I guess Disney thought that Winnie-the-Pooh and his pals would drawn in more customers than the tired old Country Bear musical revue show. But, I will stick to listening to my 16:47 minute "Country Bear Vacation Hoedown", and won't be listening to any Pooh on my iPod anytime soon.
At least having Winnie in the park is good for one thing. The, "Hey kid, you have Pooh on your shirt, hat, shoes etc", joke never gets old!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Jericho Returns to Television

Tonight, Jericho returns to television. Pretty exciting, since the show was canceled at the end of last season. This brings up something that has bothered me about TV for some time now. Networks bring out a ton of new shows each season, and decide the fate of those shows in a season or less. Sometimes, just as I find a new show I like, I find out it is being canceled. A few shows I can think of from recent seasons that fit into this category are Invasion and Jericho. Both are shows that are very episodic and you really get sucked in, following the story, and looking forward to seeing how things are going to progress each episode.
With Invasion, they never really told you what was happening to everyone in the town, but you kept tuning in each week to see if they would give you just a little bit more information. When the first season ended, that was it. Show canceled. We will never find out what was really going on?
With Jericho, they ended last season with a huge cliffhanger and then... canceled. Too bad. We would never find out what was going to happen, or how the story would end.
But, in the rare case of Jericho, apparently, enough people made a stink about the cancellation, that CBC actually revived the show for a few more episodes to actually complete the story.
Things look good for Jericho, as with the writers strike, there was been a real void of new shows on TV recently, and this may help Jericho to get viewers who may not have watched it last season, to tune in tonight.
I know what I will be doing tonight at 10 pm! And hopefully you will do the same, so that numbers will be high enough that CBS will bring the show back for another season - then maybe we can do this all over again when they cancel that season!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Little Golden Book Monday #43

Today's Little Golden Book is Oscar's Book by Jeffrey Moss with pictures by Michael Gross. Great name for an artist of an Oscar the Grouch book, don't you think! And I love the artwork in this book. Oscar is so rough looking and grouchy, that he looks like some sort of a monster out of a Godzilla movie.
I saw something recently in a magazine (don't remember which one), but they had a small photo of Big Bird on the cover and inside there was a couple of paragraphs talking about the recent DVD release of Sesame Street: Old School. They went on to warn parents that the DVD might not be suitable for children as in the early episodes of Sesame Street, which this DVD focuses on, the Muppets were pretty rough around the edges, and not as cutsie as they are today. That really made me chuckle! Today's youngsters are certainly missing out on the good stuff.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Hardy Boys Mystery Casse-Tête

Ok, one of my many guilty pleasures is the 70's TV show the Hardy Boys. In the late 70's as a ten year old, I had two favorite, 'not to be missed' television programs. One was the super cool sci-fi show Battle Star Galactica. What wasn't to like about a show with Cylon robots, flying space ships and a robotic dog! The other show I never missed was the Hardy Boys. I was a huge Shaun Cassidy fan (more about that another time) and thought it was really cool that these two brothers were crime solving detectives.
I was thrilled when they released seasons 1 & 2 of the Hardy Boys TV show on DVD recently. My son and I have been enjoying sitting in front of the TV with our bowl of popcorn, watching the old episodes.
Recently I found this 1978, 121 piece APC Hardy Boys Mystery Casse-Tête (or for those of us English speaking Canadians, Jigsaw Puzzle) on one of my Saturday thrift store outings. I hope that when I solve this mystery, I don't find out there are a few missing pieces!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Black Hole: A Pop Up Book

Here is a really nice copy of Walt Disney Studio's The Black Hole, A Pop-Up Book I found recently. The book is from 1979, and the cover price was $4.95. It is in really great shape considering that most kids pop up books are trashed within a day or two of the kid reading and playing with it. I know this from experience, as my 2 year old son has most of the flaps etc torn off in a matter of minutes! This copy has only one scene with a ripped part, and even then, all the pieces are there, and with a little tape, I was able to reconstruct the Black Hole on the last page of the book, good as new.
Here you can see the cover of the book, along with the first two pages of the book, which feature a great pop up of the U.S.S. Cygnus, the huge mystery ship which is hovering on the edge of a giant Black Hole at the beginning of the movie.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Little Golden Book Monday #42

What's that? Timmy's in trouble... Timmy's fallen down the well. That's OK, because today's Little Golden Book is Lassie Shows the Way (The Authorized Edition), 1956.
Although Lassie may be able to warn the towns people about poor Timmy, he wasn't able to help me figure out who-dun-it, as just as the Sheriff shows up in the story, at the shabby farmyard where Timmy and his father, along with Lassie, who is about to point a paw the perpetrator, I find that the last page in my book is missing. Drat!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Disney Pocket Novels

I found a treasure trove of Disney pocket novels at the local thrift shop the other day. And all were a bargain at under 50 cents each.

First up we have The Hundred And One Dalmations, and Miaa Bianca, which was the original story by Margery Sharp, which was the basis for the Walt Disney animated film The Rescuers.

Next we have Tron, complete with a fabulous full-color photo insert, and Dr. Syn: Alias The Scarecrow, which is a Walt Disney feature film which I have never seen before. Hopefully this is something that Disney will release on DVD (or whatever format they are using at the time), as I would love the opprotunity to see it.

Next is The Shaggy D.A., and Gus, both of which are based on 70's live action Disney films. Both films that were great when I was 10 years old, but that I never need to see again.

And last we have Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo and Snowball Express. I have never seen Snowball Express so can't say much about that film, but Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, much like the other Herbie movies was a favorite of mine as a child. One of the first movies I ever remember seeing was Herbie Rides Again, and I laughed so hard I almost peed myself. I'm sure as my son gets a little older, we will have to own all the Herbie films - all that is except for the most recent one, Herbie Fully Loaded. I'll take a pass on that one!