McCabe, Tickets, and a VERY Quiet Airport

The wind is kicking, clouds are prevalent, and the airplanes are sealed up tight. Guess I won't be boating today. Hanna's been up, down, and completely confusing as to her ultimate destination. Giving us fits in the world of aviation. The five-day Cone of Death slowly moves west, yet all eyes are on the Gulf and the spectre of Gustav. New Orleans is certain to be a ghost town by midnight; our thoughts and best wishes go to everyone in its path.

On a similar note...how is this guy still in office???

A MATTER OF HOURS: Bryan McCabe will have some serious coin to spend in about 14 hours. The concensus is that the deal, believed to involve the Cats' Mike Van Ryn, will go down on Tuesday. Wrapping up a slow summer, this a huge news, though a ridiculously poorly kept secret.

GREAT SEATS (HECK, GREAT SECTIONS!) NOW AVAILABLE: Single-game tickets for the Panthers first 16 games went on sale yesterday. Okay, show of hands: Were you in line at 10 a.m. to secure your seat for that thrilling October 16th tilt against Jacques Lemaire's explosive offense?

THAT NAME WE DO NOT MENTION: Similar to LegoMats above, RealMats has stood firm in his resolve regarding secrecy - or indecision - as to whether he will choose to retire or play another year. He'll be in Toronto Friday for a celebrity charity game (if you consider the likes of Tim Robbins a "celebrity"); expect a brutal media crush the moment his plane touches down at Pearson.

I'll be honest: I want RealMats to be a Cat. What's the one position we're hurting for? First line center. We've got the cash. Oh yeah, we have a captaincy opening. And the younglings could use a bona fide leader on the ice and in the room. Who better for Weiss, Horton, et al to learn from?

Laughably unrealistic? Almost certainly. But it's fun to dream...


Sandman Needs a Mask? Toss a Harpoon and the Solution Presents Itself

The Vancouver Canucks, thanks to their all-seeing corporate overlords, decided in 1996 to incorporate a killer whale design into their logo.

To answer the obvious question, the Hartford Whalers had no objection to this. Links are almost impossible to find after all this time, but if it means anything, I distinctly recall reading the Hartford Courant in late summer of that year - which I did religiously each and every morning since the internet was not yet what Al Gore had blissfully anticipated (But Love Story was a big hit 20 years earlier in Budapest and some of Myanmar...oh eff it. It'll always be Burma to me). But I digress.

In a sidebar-style NHL "quickie" that day, it was reported that the 'Nucks asked Karmanos and Rutherford for their blessing on the new logo, and while firmly entrenching the Vancouver franchise firmly into cephalopod-and-harpoon territory, they received it.

Forgetting that Karmanos and Rutherford had all but wrapped up hockey in Connecticut's capital city some seven months before it went public is irrelevant. The Whale was dead in New England. Long live Pucky.

Flash forward to 2007. Vancouver signs goaltender Curtis Sanford. A mediocre year, team-wise, later, Curtis needs a new lid, and wants you to design it. Go ahead...write a script for the guy.

After way to much time spent considering the potential impact of this post (read: not so much) I'll get to my point and appeal to Curtis to simply wrap it up. The reason? Here ya go:

Golly. That there design looks a lot like a killer whale, according to the infallible all-encompassing online resource known as Wikipedia. In fact, the colors of this classic retro mask match what the 'Nucks are pimping this week (and yes, the sweaters still have that city name emblazoned. Say, what city was that again? Began with a "V"? Hint: the final straw in showing Trevor Linden the advantage in staying home and catching Blue Harvest. Hey...disambiguation, luzers).

Killing me trying to find a clear, close-up Sean Burke mask photo from those last days of the Whale. I'll continue the search. Otherwise, rev up the PhotoShops.

All jonesin' aside, I applaud Sanford and the Vancouver Canucks fo their creativity and forward-think. But a whale's a whale.


Veep Nominee a "Hockey Mom"

I don't typically enjoy meshing politics with hockey, but this is kewl:

Palin, like McCain, is a conservative with a maverick streak who has shown a willingness to clash with others in her own party. A self-styled hockey mom and political reformer, she has been governor of her state less than two years.

Yes, that is indeed her on the establishmentarian magazine cover, above. "Hockey mom". Vice President. Even the NHL's marketing department couldn't screw this one up.

FSN Cuts Games, Wild Need Furry Person, Underoos, and More

Happy Friday to all! (That may or may not include management-level employees of the franchise currently located in North Carolina). Let's get right to it:

- DUDE, WHERE'S MY TEAM? From the "We Proudly Support Our Local Franchise" department, Fox Sports Net Florida has decided to reduce the number of Panthers games it televises, from an already shaky 70 to an embarrassingly minor-league 65, as reported by On Frozen Pond's George Richards.

Must be a glut of B-list celebrity poker and Texas-style open-fist cage-fighting to occupy all that dead airtime. Their brethren at Sun Sports probably visibly cringed upon the Lightning capturing the Cup in '04, knowing they'd be obligated to cover the team for another two hours.

Beyond giving anti-Southeast Division bottle throwers even more ammunition, this is a serious blow to those of us waiting all summer for the return of Rap Cat.

- PAM DOESN'T LIKE IT WILD, BUT YOU MAY Ever been intrigued by the opportunity to get decked out in duds hotter than Peter Mayhew's when filming third unit pickup shots in Yuma, all the while tickling small children and sliding four-wheelers across a sheet of ice? The Wild are minus a mascot. Think you fill the bill?

Must possess "An acceptable driving record with a valid driver’s license."

Acceptable? Like less than two vehicular homicides? Thanks, Kukla's Korner.

- OH NO Kevin at BMR gives his always enjoyable take on the recent spate of "R" columns, as in "relocation", and the dreaded 11-letter "C" word. A good read.

"In fact, (Florida) sold 80% of their tickets last year, which is far and away better than the last place team for the NBA or MLB and is actually better than what they did in 2006-07."

- THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH The Pensblog continues to prove its genetically superior status first by setting the world on fire with the wildly popular WWGRD bracelet (would it work as well in blue, black, and silver?). Now they've got an even better product idea.

Can an official Litter Box underoos set be far behind? Guess I'd better finish that title bar that's taking longer to create than Brian writing his novel.


Oh...THOSE Florida Panthers

The image on the left is a Florida panther. The opposite image is a Florida Panther. In case there was any confusion, I'm not the only Panthers Litter Box on the interwebs.
Kudos to Sugar for the show of love to the feline that led to a generation of playoff-less hockey.
You're always welcome here, Sugar!

Haven't We Had Enough Of This For One Summer?

The NHL Player's Association executive director Paul Kelley spoke to The Hockey News recently, and his words are eerily similar to what we all feel are the same as those on Gary Bettman's mind.

THN: Turning to the NHL ownership picture, there’s a sense some observers get that there’s an elaborate shell game going on here, that the league is operating in a shaky U.S. economy, that three to five teams may be on the market. If there are teams that are relocated, do the players deserve to be heavily involved in the process?

PK: (after a moment of economic gobbledegook) But if you’re in Phoenix or you’re in Florida, it’s really tough for those teams to put people in the seats and sell the game. We understand that and maybe the revenue-sharing system is part of the answer. But our view is that if teams in any region suffer (financial) losses three or four years in a row, then stop complaining about it in a (business) system you created and imposed here, and start asking the question whether you’re in the right place.

I really didn't need to put that last part in bold, but I wanted it to sink in. This guy runs the player's union, for Goodenow's sake! And now he's in bed with the relocation folks.

As usual, Puck Daddy does his superb job summing up the comments, and there is most certainly going to be a lot more about this thrown in our faces in the days to come.

On a somewhat lighter note, can this guy EVER catch a break?

Stu Barnes ...One of a Kind

This afternoon, longtime NHLer Stu Barnes announced his retirement from hockey, finishing up as a member of the Dallas Stars, but will forever be enshrined in South Florida as the key piece of one of the most infamous trades in Panthers history.

On November 19th, 1996, Barnes (after three years in Miami and how many hits later) and Jason Wooley were sent packing to the Penguins for the indomitable Chris Wells.

Wells, after quickly proving how domitable he really was, served four uninspired seasons in Florida, while Barnes rapidly became a true leader and fearless soldier for the Pens, Sabres (as captain), and Stars, as originally expected when drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in 1989.

A fan favorite everywhere he traveled, his was the type that is seldom seen in today's game.

Another old-line warrior honorably calls it quits.

Once the worst night of his professional career, fate intervened and made Barnes a Star.

I Know, it Sucks

I'm working on a new title bar for the site, and think I'm on my way to something I'm happy with. Unfortunately, between work and very little sleep, it's taking longer than I had hoped.

Soooo, please bear with the lousy title bar for a little longer. You'll probably see some pretty horrific - but very temporary - tinkering over the next few days. I appreciate the patience and know we'll all enjoy the results.

Meanwhile, here's some more Shania.


Awesome Picture Of The Day

Shania Twain showing her true colors.

Black isn't a bad color, however. The Panthers' new third jersey, perhaps?


More Chops: New Ribby Hired!

Following the press conference slaughter of Ribby the First at yesterday's gala luncheon, the AHL Iowa Chops have presented Ribby the Second.

Upon the unfortunate development that former/current/former/current NFLer Brett Favre will be continuing his football career despite a generous overture by the Iowa hockey team, Ribby will be representing the Chops in various capacities, including appearances at Rotary Club barbeques, Wal-Mart openings, and ASPCA fundraisers. Unless someone gets hungry.

At his introduction, Ribby spoke through guest PR man Howard Dean. Asked by AHL president David Andrews where Ribby would be traveling in order to promote the new club, Dean responded :

"Not only are we going to New Hampshire, Dave, we're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico, and we're going to California and Texas and New York ... And we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan, and then we're going to Chicago to take the Calder Cup! BbbbYeeaaaaaahhhhhhh!"

The future shines bright for the Anaheim Ducks' minor league affiliate.

Meanwhile, coach Dineen (no, the other one) finally gives a hearty thumbs-up for the (quickly redesigned) Chops shoulder logo:

Christmas is right around the corner, hockey fans!

Remember Your Panthers, Part V: Chad Kilger

On February 26, 2008, Cats GM Jacques Martin traded a third-round pick in that year's entry draft for former first-rounder Kilger, with the intention of bringing his considerable size and killer shot to a needy Panthers squad.

Since the former Leaf refused to report to Sunrise (even though he was, at the moment of the deal, like, in Sunrise), and has since been suspended for his failure to do so, please use your imagination as we peruse several virtual action shots of Kilger gettin' jiggy with the Cats. Typically real action shots are employed here, but even in the absence of a PS3 or PhotoShop, I got nuthin'. Behold.

Panthers right wing Chad Kilger blasts a beautiful tape-to-tape pass from Olli Jokinen, beating Carolina's Cam Ward high to the glove side.

An obviously frustrated and defeated Alex Ovechkin seeks to take out his anger on Kilger, having been beaten off the rush by the bruising Florida forward to ultimately lose possession in the slot, giving up the winning goal in overtime to a streaking, newly-invigorated Panthers club.

June 8, 2008, Sunrise, FL - As euphoria rips through the BankAtlantic Center, a boyish grin and visible sense of immense relief wash over the face of the Florida Panthers' newest hero and 2008 Conn Smythe winner Chad Kilger, as the veteran forward raises the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career, silencing those who may have doubted his team's resolve. Coach Jacques Martin agrees: "I never had a second thought about that deadline deal."

Leaf Fans: Be Afraid...Be Very Afraid

Cliff Fletcher's television career never got past the early years of Star Trek.


Iowa Chops Release Secondary Logo

At the official announcement event held by the club earlier today, coach Dineen (no, the other one) hailed the yet-to-be-unveiled image as a "triumphant melding of midwest pride and agri-business know-how. Texas style. Er, Anaheim style. Um, St. Louis style!" When pointed out by the assembled media that he was actually in Iowa, Coach Dineen (no, the other one) referenced a map of the United States on a far wall and promptly pointed to Kansas City. Follow-ups were not addressed.

The dynamic and colorful new shoulder, or secondary, logo for the AHL's newest franchise, the Iowa Chops

Upon removal moments later of a drape covering the logo (pictured above, with soon-to-be iconic fork and knife), the normally outspoken Dineen (no, the other one) had no comment other than "it's a little busy for a hockey logo, but we'll cut the fat in no time," and what was believed to be his stomach was heard rumbling, possibly growling, by all in attendance.

The throng of reporters was then led to the club's locker room for a complimentary luncheon, whereby the team mascot (Ribby!) was promptly euthanized, quartered, and consumed. A cash bar stood at the ready.

Fine dining for Iowa's finest. Charitable donations in the name of Ribby can be sent to the Anaheim Ducks, courtesy of Chris Pronger, director of interstate outreach.

Applications are currently being accepted for Ribby's replacement.

Awesome Picture of the Day

Upon the near-fatal realization his roster includes no one named Datsyuk, Thornton, or, gulp, Sundin (there, I said it), newly-minted head coach Peter DeBoer exudes confidence at his introductory press conference.
Welcome to South Florida, Pete!

Remember Your Panthers, Part IV: Bryan Allen

Third-year Panthers defenseman Bryan Allen returns to (presumably) a top-four spot. Will the "A" accompany him? Chances are not good, since a glut of candidates appear ready to assume the responsibility. You know, the guys we've waited four and five years for. Tons of heart and a mean streak that bests his size, Allen has been a steady if unspectacular blueliner during a transitionary phase ready to blossom with the additions of Keith Ballard, The Beach, and the rumored-to-death arrival of Bryan McCabe.

"Murdock...I'm comin' to get YOU!"

"Your feeble skills are no match for my Jedi training...I worship at the defensive alter of Master Kitchen."

Greatest-ever Panther?

In a stirring exclusion, promising D-man Branny Mezei didn't make the cut.

On Frozen Pond's George Richards posts a very summer-esque poll: Who are the greatest Panthers of all time? Get out and vote, people.

Being that the question is "greatest Panthers of all time" I am assuming this is defined as those players who made the most positive impact during their time with the club. As opposed to those few big names who've punched the clock and run for the hills when the opportunity presented itself (looking squarely at you, Igor).

Going by my interpretation, the "greatest" Cat of all time, er, 15 years, must unquestionably be John Vanbiesbrouck. Bill Lindsay had The Goal, but Beezer made it worth the effort. A more iconic representative has yet to emerge from South Florida. Yes, we may hang on to the spring of '96 way past its expiration date, but what else has there been?

All that, and he's the only NHLer with all five vowels in his last name!

Bure may have been the finest pure scorer and overall talent the team has ever stuffed into a sweater, but support or not, he didn't help the organization out of the cellar any more than King Louie or Olli.

Gotta go with results. 1996 defined the club for many years; some would say it is the defining moment, with which I would agree. And no one played a larger role nor has left the lasting imprint on South Florida hockey that Beezer has.

Thanks, Puck Daddy

NBA Fans Need Not Apply

Thanks (again!) to another glorious find on The Pensblog, now YOU can own a color- and logo-customized pair of RBK kicks like the one below:

It's actually really kinda cool for about 45 seconds, and yes, the Cats are represented. Made a pretty nice looking shoe by playing with the color options. Retro (Nords, Whale, Jets, Seals, etc.) would be a sweet touch. Embroidered pictures of the team's owner - Ted looks particularly at home above - is an additional $10.

But $90 for what looks to be the absolute bare-bones footware from Reebok? Still, a nice toy for the rabid Alan Cohen fan.

A Sea of Lonely Seats...What to Do?

In Monday's edition of Puck Daddy's fantastic "5 Ways I'd Change the NHL" series, the incomparable James Mirtle made his long-awaited appearance.

(Off-topic: What in the name of Hades did we do last summer without Puck Daddy? Oh yeah...the Janis Sprukts Watch began. Hearty stuff.)

There's been much talk of contraction/relocation during this series, and frankly I'm bored with it. It's been covered here recently and I'd prefer to give it another week until dragging that angry monkey out of the closet yet again. (Cue the obligatory Angry Monkey...like there was any question I wouldn't do it.)
Dr. Mirtle, in his number one suggestion, makes a terrific point about, quite simply, empty seats and the associated negative perception they carry in some of the under-performing markets. Duhhh, Florida is named, along with Long Island and Phoenix (their new center should feel right at home).
The Feline Faithful will automatically recoil into a sense of familiar dread; "Here we go...bashing hockey in South Florida again, lousy crowds, no playoffs, Luongo, Jokinen, ice should be in the frozen drinks, there's hockey in Florida?, Mike Keenan, nobody cares, Gators/'Noles/Hurricanes, the uniform sucks, the logo sucks, the building sucks, Peter Taticek, the concessions are too pricey, local papers don't give a damn, local TV gives less of a damn, FSN is dropping games this year cuz no one watches, there's hockey in Florida?, this icing sponsored by Hanes Pantyhose, this puck-over-boards-stoppage-in-play sponsored by The Cheetah Club, Denis Shvidki, there's hockey in Florida?, etc." Face it, this is a learned behavior, developed over many years of losing seasons and incessant, unending brutality about our Small-Market Status by the hands of the privileged (read: Leaf "fans"). A truly unique master's thesis awaits the right psych student.
Relax, Illustrious Twelve...no reason to panic this time. Mirtle only wants to see clubs with "wide swaths of empty seats" get proactive on filling them. I completely agree, and have had similar thoughts for quite a while (having been a Whalers slave...'nuff said). All those unused chairs at the 19,250-seat BAC either contribute to or assist in creating a local and national perception problem for the organization, and the league.
Run a quick video panning from ice level to rafters, on a Tuesday in November vs. Atlanta and there's not much question as to why Sunrise is labeled a black hole. They've been a slightly-above-.500 team on the ice with a playoffless recent history. Who would expect better than a 15,436 average for the season, which is actually up from the previous year? Why would Joe South Florida Sportsfan go out of his way? Same goes for the aforementioned Coyotes and Isles.
Wanna fix the empty seat problem? Wins. Lots of 'em.
Victories on the scoresheet will bring victories at the box office. That is a guarantee even in this fickle market that only days ago was deemed the worst in all of American sport.
The only potential drawback is free or reduced-price tickets seriously undervaluing the season seat holder. A problem, indeed. But that's a war for another day.
Personally, I'm not so concerned about empty seats. And please Yormark, no drapes. As long as management is doing their job in placing a winning - or even competitive - squad on the ice, the issue will resolve itself.


Gretzky Love at the Pensblog

The Pensblog's "Wayne Gretzky Sucks Photoshop Expo" has drawn to a close, and in it's wake are many splendid - or psychotic - examples of picture-altering goodness.
A few select examples:

Any time Wayne can be portrayed as a meat-headed trio of goons is a good thing for all of us.
Still not sure where the hatred stems from, but it produced a pretty hilarious, and often bizarre, bunch of "photos".


The Beach speaks (am I the first to make the connection? Am I?)

A computer-generated image displaying Nick Boynton in his new togs.

A rather vanilla but nonetheless an "IT'S SOMETHING FROM NOTHING" few words out of newly-acquired defenseman Nick (henceforth, The Beach) Boynton, regaling us via the Arizona Republic's Jim Gintonio with such rich bromides as:

“Everybody plays the game because they want to, and those (trades) are the things that happen. It sucks sometimes, but things happen for a reason, and it’s probably for the best for me.”

At least he's possibly, maybe, perhaps, just a smidgen more pleased to be in Florida than another defenseman you never hear about.