Bill Simmons launched grantland.com this week, and it looks to be a promising source of great writing. The cast of authors he has recruited for this project is spectacular, and I, for one, will be checking in in search of new content as often as the Twitters tell me that such content has been added. I have never been a frequenter of the sports guy’s ESPN Page2 column, but on the occasions in which it was suggested to me that I read a specific piece, I have always enjoyed those selections, and have been thankful for the recommendations. For my tastes, however, there is always a little too much baseball, a little too much basketball, and a lot too much Boston-area sports. I don’t have a beef with Boston-area sports, and I admire his upfront admission of fandom, but I want my Kansas City Chiefs to beat his New England Patriots and my Kansas City Royals to beat his Boston Red Sox every time they play one another, not because I dislike those franchises, but because that means my clubs are doing something right and, in those moments, possess the ability to beat good teams.
In my youth, when the NBA was a different animal, I always pulled for the Celtics (pronounced with a hard ‘C’) over the Lakers, and in my years as a hockey fan, I’ve been of the opinion that it would be great for the Boston Bruins to return to excellence, because I imagine that a super-strong market for that particular club would be good for Boston sports, and more importantly, facilitate the growth of the game in the States, which has almost always been hard to do, and become even harder to do given that a lot of the more-popular sports blogs ridicule the game with headlines like, “Hockey Happened,” or they do nothing but post YouTube clips of fights. Therefore, I was already anticipating the launch of Grantland, but when it did, and I discovered that SportsGuy had crafted a hockey post, I was salivating. I didn’t get very far into the piece before feeling like the Geico caveman, a Disservice Done stamp, if you will, blotted across my forehead, and the forehead of the National Hockey League seasons of 1994-2007 (ish). If I stick closely to his post, that end date should be 2011, but somewhere in there, he’s got a link to a post he wrote in 2008 that centered on the idea that he’d been flipping to Versus during the post-season, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Anyway, I read his post, and I was a little ticked off by it. No, really. Just a little. He makes some salient points, but he also pretends that the NHL product during the aforementioned years was less than good, and that’s a kite I just can’t let him fly. In the end, it doesn’t matter, because the growth of the game today and tomorrow and the day after that is what’s at stake. But my reaction was to put together a little Fire Joe Morgan action on his debut piece. That is, a breakdown of his breakdown, only one that scales back the harsh, and tries to refrain from too much cliff-pushing. Said breakdown, is just past the jump, and I won’t make any promises about redundancy, congruency, or brevity. It simply is.
My father had three things left on his Sports Bucket List: seeing a Stanley Cup finals game in Boston, going to the Masters, and going to the Kentucky Derby. After last night, we're two away from him creating a new list or me putting a pillow over his face. I flew home so we could attend Game 4 of the Bruins-Canucks series together. It was the least I could do after he brought me to about 4,500 Celtics games over the years.
The Canucks were favored in the finals because of stars such as Ryan Kesler (who broke out for Team USA in the 2010 Olympics), Alex Burrows (we'll get to him), and the creepy Sedin twins (created in a lab by some evil Swedish scientist who loved hockey). They also have snazzy blue uniforms that look like the old Whalers duds once upon a time (to their credit, they didn't steal "Brass Bonanza"), and their fans are so devoted enough that after Game 2's game-winning overtime goal by Burrows, they were still standing and cheering in their seats a full 10 minutes later. Their Achilles' heel: They nearly choked away a 3-0 lead to Chicago in Round 1 because goalie Roberto Luongo briefly unhinged midway through the series, which means he could do it again.
First and foremost, let’s assume that SportsGuy is calling the Sedin twins creepy because they don’t collect paychecks signed by one Jeremy M. Jacobs. There is almost no other impossible-not-to-love story in sports than that of Daniel and Henrik Sedin. They have, until this year’s NHL All-Star Game, played on the same line together their entire lives. The Canucks spent the second and third overall picks of the ’99 draft to acquire their services, and have kept them on the roster ever since. Their play together demonstrates a chemistry unmatched in professional-sports history. They skate hard every second of every shift and they produce a tremendous number of points for the Vancouver offense. Second of all, I appreciate as much as the next guy a reference to the old Hartford Whalers theme song, but the Whalers came into existence nearly a decade after the Canucks made their NHL debut. It’s not all about New England, yo. The color scheme used today resembles the most-familiar Hartford sweater, but waffling hockey fans aren’t going to “love” the 2010-11 Canucks for fashion reasons. To SportsGuy’s credit, the Canucks do have a passionate fan base, and Luongo does have the consistency of Seattle weather. Also, those early Canuck sweaters...yeesh.
If you haven't been following the series, it took exactly one game for Bruins fans to work up a Canadiens-level hatred for the Canucks. This was surprising because Vancouver isn't Tampa Bay, Columbus, or any of those other microwavable insta-Bettman hockey cities that any Original Six fan base instinctively hates.
Well-played, sir. Three paragraphs in and we have a Bettman slam. Andrew “Dice” Clay thinks you need some new material. Also, way to speak on behalf of six fan bases that date back 86 years. I’m certain the newest generation of those hockey families learn to eat, walk, talk, and hate NHL expansion in that order.
For four decades, Canucks fans suffered and suffered and suffered. Only twice did they make the finals, the last time in 1994, when they became anonymous foils for Messier's Rangers. Everyone remembers that series because the Rangers shed 54 years of baggage and won the Cup, and also because that may have been the last time anyone other than hockey fans liked hockey. It's easy to forget that the Canucks staved off elimination in Game 5, flew cross-country to stay alive in Game 6, and then —- right after their fans had let their guard down and decided to believe — -fell short in Game 7. They never came that close again.
Actually, that’s not why everyone remembers that series. Everyone remembers that series because of two reasons: the Vancouver solidarity displayed from both its personnel and its puckhead-adorned fans, and Mark Messier himself. But please, continue to make the world’s equator and Prime Meridian the Atlantic and Northeast Divisions of the National Hockey League. Also, please refrain from associating that Cup with “the last time anyone other than hockey fans liked hockey.” There have been plenty of situations since then in which non-hockey fans liked hockey, even if it was only during the post-season.
I assumed Bruins fans and Canucks fans would be bonded by their histories of heartbreak (a little like the Cardinals and Red Sox in 2004, actually). That hasn't happened. And it hasn't happened because the Canucks revealed themselves to be flopping wusses who (a) bite the fingers of opposing players, (b) use a 15th-string defenseman to knock the other team's best forward unconscious when he's not looking, then dedicate the next game to that defenseman as if nothing ever happened, and (c) don't back any of this crap up. If this were a movie, the Bruins would be Will Hunting and the Canucks would be the condescending ponytailed guy from Harvard who won't go outside(1).
Operation: Wheels Come Off: Commence. I can think of no other word besides audacity in making an effort to tie the alleged heartbreak of these two fan bases together. The reasons for which such a suggestion embraces absurdity should be obvious, but in case they are not:
a) Boston has five rings.
b) In the 15 seasons since Vancouver lost to those Rangers, Boston has not qualified for post-season play five times. Of the 10 in which they did, they did not make it out of the first round seven times. The other three times, they were ousted in the second.
c) Boston, hoisters of five Stanley Cups, ranks as the fifth-winningest team in NHL history.
d) I could, and should, talk about the abundance of other professional sports championships that have occurred in the Boston area since the Cup-less Vancouver Canucks came into existence. Thankfully, I don’t have to, as Jonah Keri just did.
e) The Bruins, who, by the way, have won five pro-hockey championships, have made the finals a total of 17 times.
One might wish that such an error would be the largest disgrace of that paragraph, and one would be right in wishing so. One, however, would probably also note that calling the Canucks “flopping wusses” challenges the notion of bonded-by-heartbreak for worst suggestion in that sentence cluster. At this point, it becomes obvious that SportsGuy paid little to no attention to Vancouver prior to the Finals, and has made the focus of such a claim based on one late-game incident that occurred in the third contest between the two clubs this round. And, painful as it is to admit it, we’re not out of that paragraph’s woods even there:
a) “bite the fingers of opposing players” is, one would hope, an attempt at humor.
b) Unfortunately for the author, it is the antithesis of comedic.
c) Making a singular incident plural is something we’ve all been guilty of when attacking our foes with words. In this situation, I would guess that the now-redeemed hockey aficionado supposes that players like Alexandre Burrows are inherently dirty, and engage in such tactics with high frequency.
d) I’d also suppose that the SportsGuy has never been the victim of a single face wash, let alone multiple, simultaneous face washes.
e) The use of hyperbole is a dangerous tactic, and, like fabricating multiplicity, it can be funny, but to suggest Aaron Rome was a 15th-string defenseman is nothing shy of preposterous, and again, an attempt at funny shrinking in the rear-view mirror. You could take Rome’s 52 games played, his 53 Penalties in Minutes, or his just-shy-of-1000-minutes log of ice time this season.
f) Unfortunately, we haven’t broken camp with that sentence yet. The author, you see, implies that the Canucks “used” this team member as a guided weapon, that they premeditated the vicious hit Rome laid on Nathan Horton.
g) It gets worse. SportsGuy adds the disclaimer “when he’s not looking,” as if it was Rome’s responsibility to make sure Horton saw the hit coming. Had SportsGuy not checked out on the game so many years ago, he would perhaps be familiar with coaching strategies such as “finish your checks,” “or keep your head up.”
h) Since it is clear that he is not familiar with such phrases, I would then imagine that the author feels that the lateness of the hit was also a major portion of the infraction, which is not the case. The largest two aspects involve the direct contact with Horton’s head, and the fact that Rome left his feet to deliver the blow. End of discussion. At least that part.
i) If SportsGuy wants to put some stock into the Canucks allegedly dedicating game four to Rome, so be it. He’s the only one outside of the Vancouver locker room that paid it any mind. If it happened, it’s a morale booster of a move, not an indictment on the Canuck personnel and coaching staff.
j) “don’t back any of this crap up” is, as they say in the newspaper business, a waste of column inches. It doesn’t even mean anything. The most it could suggest is that Grantland’s copy editor had an oversight.
k) Good Will Hunting? Really. The most recent film analogy we could get was only three years after non-hockey fans stopped caring about hockey? I’m disappointed. In fairness, though, I've been guilty of the same practice, and hey -- it's not like quoting new movies is going to resonate with many.
For a city weaned on the Big Bad Bruins of the 1970s, Vancouver's flopping/biting routine went over about as well as a Roger Clemens statue(2). A few hours before Game 3 on Monday, my father was sitting in a Beacon Hill Starbucks when five couples walked in, all wearing Canucks jerseys, and ordered some drinks. A Boston local stood up, walked over to one of the guys and calmly stuck his fingers in the man's face. With the implication being, "Why don't you bite my fingers, isn't that what you guys do?" Only he didn't actually say anything. He just stood there waving his fingers in the guy's face. And by the way, he was outnumbered five-to-one.
I will take a quick moment to offer the author some kudos here: Attending a professional hockey game with one’s father has to be an iconic moment. Attending a professional playoff hockey –- let alone Stanley Cup Finals –- registers higher than any other father/son sporting event I could imagine. Yes, even going to a clinching World Series game. The praise, however, is flanked by poor imagery in that it is flanked by a subject -– a weak one at that –- that has already been covered: flopping and biting.
Nothing ended up happening —- the Canucks fan laughed it off —- but that gives you an idea of the bitterness spawned by Games 1 and 2, thanks to Vancouver's two soul-crushing game-winners (18 seconds left in regulation, then 11 seconds into OT), and also because Alexandre Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron's finger in Game 1, didn't get suspended, then became Game 2's hero. At gunpoint, I don't know what makes Boston fans hate Burrows more: that he bit Bergeron, that he didn't get suspended, or that his name is "Alexandre." What pushed it over the top: Burrows is good. Usually playoff villains take the form of Carolina's Scott Walker (who sucker-punched a Bruin two years ago) or Pittsburgh's Ulf Samuelsson (who crippled Cam Neely in the '91 playoffs), role players who overstep their boundaries and make you say, "Who the hell does that guy think he is?" But Burrows' biting Bergeron, then scoring a ridiculously creative goal to win Game 2? That deserved a waterboarding.
If you root through the tack box for the brass ones, this paragraph doesn’t even deserve any attention. I will, however, call attention to the fact that, here we are, once again, talking about the biting incident. For the unaware, that incident happened in game one, also known as 10 days ago. The game-winner was a week ago, and it hinged upon three Boston mistakes: 1) A careless neutral-zone turnover, 2) Tim Thomas channeling his inner Patrick Roy and becoming too aggressive leaving the crease to try to break up the scoring chance, and 3) Bruin defenseman -– you may have heard of him –- Zdeno Chara, who wears a ‘C’ on his sweater (that stands for Captain) failed to hone his awareness of what Burrows was attempting to do. In case you were unaware, Burrows was attempting a wraparound goal, which is, like, one of four things you can do behind a goalie’s net. In the event that you do not understand the game, the probability of a player attempting a wraparound while skating behind the net in an overtime period of the Stanley Cup Finals is 100 percent, especially considering that Burrows broke into the zone as the lone Canuck and ostensibly had no teammate to whom he could pass the puck. If you are unfamiliar with Chara, he stands 6’9’’, which registers in as the tallest guy to ever play in the league. He’s big. He’s good. He knows what to do in that situation, even if it means taking Burrows down and risking a penalty-kill situation, or even a penalty shot. But sure, SportsGuy. Make the Canuck the villain, and throw out a few player-reference stretches, even if one of them occurred when you weren’t paying attention to hockey.
Those first two games played out like a generic version of every traumatic Bruins playoff series from the past 35 years: The Canucks were faster and slightly more talented, and both games ended abruptly in the most brutal way possible. (Welcome to my childhood.) Momentum shifted in Game 3 when Aaron Rome coldcocked Nathan Horton in the open ice —- exactly the type of blindside hit that hockey has been trying to eliminate in the Concussions Are Bad era —- then Horton spent the next few minutes lying on his back, motionless, as the crowd stared in horror(3). After they carried him off, three things happened: the Bruins were fired up, the Canucks became tentative, and the fans ratcheted up the intensity to Boston Tea Party levels. The highlight of the ensuing 8-1 shellacking: Looch (a.k.a, Milan Lucic) making a belated run at Burrows, belting him around a little, then shoving his fingers in Burrows' face as they were being separated. You're not going to believe this, but the crowd thoroughly enjoyed it.
Here again we revisit biting, toss out ancient history analogies, and speak to what the league wants to do, even though the author cast the game out like a broken toy so many years ago. I take special issue with the opening sentence to that paragraph, though. What I remember about the Boston Bruins in the playoffs while SportsGuy ditched them at the bar for a decade and-a-half, are either a) regular-season overachievers, b) groups of personnel still learning to gel, and, more often than not, c) a club lucky to play in the Northeast Division. Either way you slice it, they’ve been post-season chokers. I don’t say this because I dislike the franchise. Far from the truth, in fact. My tendency is to get on their bandwagon and hope that a great Irish sports city can get behind their hockey team and hint to non-fans that hockey always has and still does matter. The Bruins, however, completely collapse after establishing the stranglehold on Philly last year, and as I already stated, either bow out in the first or second round. How going down 0-2 in the Finals is “a generic version of every traumatic Bruins playoff series from the past 35 years” does not add up. Scattered in those 35 years of Boston post-season contention are every possible version of falling short. It’s what they’ve done. How that’s a generic version of traumatic is beyond me. When you hit the 20-years-since-your-last-Finals mark, I think trauma kind of becomes an afterthought.
How about the St. Louis Blues? Part of NHL expansion in 1967, three Stanley Cup Finals appearances in their first three seasons of existence -– including a loss to the Bruins –- and only two Conference Finals appearances since? That, while establishing a professional-sports-consecutive-playoff-appearance record (25 seasons), having perennial divisional competency amongst better competition. That, while choosing to fire the coach who took you to those early Finals, only to watch him go on to become the winningest coach in NHL history, is traumatic.
By all accounts, Canucks fans weren't treated well as they left the arena. Sauced-up Boston fans were shoving them, throwing things at them and challenging them to fights. A friend of mine who roots for Vancouver wore his jersey to Game 3, despite my warnings, and saw his life flash before his eyes about 20 times as he looked for a cab. Things were so ugly that it prompted a Boston Globe editorial urging Boston fans to act with more class, an impossibility after we learned Horton would miss the rest of the playoffs. In the stands during Game 4, the hostility toward the Canucks and their fans was fairly suffocating. One fan behind me was swearing like a sailor at every Canuck, even using an obscenity that I hadn't heard at a sporting event in years. Because there was a little boy sitting behind us, I braced for the boy's dad to say something to the guy … then I realized that the boy's dad was the guy. And he wanted the blood of the Vancouver Canucks.
I take zero issue with the sentiments in this paragraph, save that it prompts me to point in the general direction of the above-linked Jonah Keri piece.
Quick tangent: It's a weird time for sports right now because, once upon a time, going into an opposing arena or stadium while wearing your team's colors was the ultimate sign of fan support. It meant you "risked" your life to support your guys … although, really, you just ended up getting heckled and that's it(4). That's the way it should work. You go into the lion's den, support your team, take the ensuing heat (mostly good-natured) … and that's where it ends. But once the secondary ticket market (StubHub, eBay, etc.) made it easier for out-of-towners to get tickets, the odds increased for something truly terrible to happen: like that poor Giants fan getting beaten into a coma outside Dodger Stadium recently. I don't know what to make of the "let's make miserable the rogue outsider who dared to wear opposing colors in our house" dynamic now, or know why an opposing fan would take that chance (especially in hockey), or know what the boundaries are for making that fan miserable. It's all in flux.
As a fan who has repped his (NFL) team on the road for 10 years, I’m glad that the author composed this tangent. It’s crucial that hometown fans take a bit of responsibility, if and when it’s possible, and put the safety of all in attendance as first priority, not just those rocking the home-team’s jersey.
Anyway, we managed to avoid anything spectacularly inappropriate on Monday and Wednesday. Barely. Game 4 turned into a Bruins romp by the end of the second period. My father and I were lucky enough to have seats on the glass; we noticed quickly that the Bruins were skating around with their proverbial chests puffed out, convinced they had gained control of the series, physically. (Which they had.) The best moment happened near the end, when Burrows kept tipping the stick of popular Bruins goalie Tim Thomas and Thomas went medieval on his ass, then smiled afterward to the enduring delight of the crowd. That's my favorite thing about hockey, and one of many reasons why it's made a sneaky comeback since its devastating lockout: Unlike basketball (where the refs carry too much sway), hockey players police one another(5).
Specific to this series, I must admit that the chances that I’d be rooting for Boston –- were they not competing against a Cup-less franchise -– are high. I dig their style of play. I like their personnel. I admire Claude Julien, and I love Tim Thomas. I don’t like what he did with his goalie stick because he did it against a Vancouver Canuck, or against Alexandre Burrows. I like how he wielded his lumber because it was a feat of badassery, Ben Thompson style. But way to quote an even older movie, SportsGuy. Geez. I’m considering hiring a team of IT nerds to program an auto-play of some Hall and Oates every time someone opens a column of yours.
I am fit to be tied by the terminology “devastating lockout” used by so many media. Before I say more, here is my bias: I’m a hockey fan. I couldn’t wait for the lockout to end, just so that I could watch hockey games on television and attend them in person once more. That’s where the story starts and stops. I am a simple, semi-educated dude with limited time and access, so if data that highlights why the lockout was devastating exists, please point me in its general direction. I don’t have the time or the interest in scouring television ratings numbers. We know that the deal with ESPN expired, and that that particular network was likely never again going to seriously pursue a deal with the league.
My first hunch is to assume that SportsGuy deemed it devastating because its timing was tied to his employer's decision to no longer carry the NHL product.
Regardless, does that mean that people thought that professional hockey would no longer be televised? That can’t be what people thought. On my end, it meant that a portion -– be it small, insignificant, or whathaveyou -– of sports fans, at that moment, no longer had a need for ESPN as a television network. For me, I’ll tune in if I’m looking for a specific bottom line news bit, and that only happens when I’m too lazy to look up a stat or score or development on the Internet. It doesn’t mean I’m boycotting the network. I just don’t have a use for it, especially if we’re not talking about Monday Night Football. Hockey fans had Outdoor Life Network, which became Versus, which will now become something vaguely resembling the NBC-Versus network, or whatever. The point was that hockey was back on television, and available live in its respective markets. Not once did I hear a hockey fan, a casual hockey fan, or even a non-hockey fan cast disdain into the air for the sport, the league, or its players. In fact, this is the almost uniform response from each said group:
Non-hockey fan: “Ha ha. That game’s dumb anyway. The world is better without it.”
Casual hockey fan: “You know, that’s really too bad about the lockout.”
Hockey fan: “Man, I can’t wait til hockey’s back.”
So, what’s devastating there? Non-hockey fan never cared in the first place. You were never going to get him to sit down and watch a game with you on TV, and if you did –- probably by hosting a party or offering free beer and pizza -– the game would be littered with gripes. The only time non-hockey fan has something positive to say about hockey is when you treat him to a live NHL game with good seats. And even then, the response will be something like, “I’m not going to broadcast this. I’ll deny it if you repeat it, but that was pretty awesome.” He’ll never attend another game (barring another free invite) and he’ll go right back to dissing it, save for the occasional neutral comment about viewing it live, which will probably be made in such a way that suggests he has never done so.
Casual hockey fan wasn’t necessarily seeking out tickets or channel surfing looking for the game anyway. They take it. They leave it. Maybe they tune in for a Stanley Cup Finals game, or maybe they get into a little Winter Olympic hockey action, but they’re never really here nor there.
Hockey fan likely felt compelled to try and will a new Collective Bargaining Agreement into existence, and was happy as a dog in a pet-food store when play resumed. Season-ticket holders bought tickets again. Couch fans turned on the tube for games again, even though they weathered a rough broadcasting debut from the new network(s), and sure: Ticket sales, in general, probably suffered a bit, but in the big picture, the game flourished. Take the first post-lockout season –- 2005-06 –- for example. Do you know who won the Cup that year? They go by the name of the Hurricanes. They play hockey in Raleigh, North Carolina, and they saw an increase in ticket sales that year (compared with the final pre-lockout season) and made a profit for the first time since moving from Hartford.
After that the Ducks won it. Then you have Pittsburgh and Detroit -– two great hockey markets –- competing in consecutive Cups, followed by Philadelphia and Chicago last year, now Boston/Vancouver. So, did general league revenue shrink a bit in the first season back from the lockout? I would guess that it did, and I would also guess that that would happen in any pro sport. You know what else happened, though? The league instilled a salary cap, the players elected a new NHLPA president, and, best I can tell, the game continues to grow.
Hockey fits in better these days in general. I had lost interest in the Bruins in the mid-'90s because of their unlikable skinflint of an owner, Jeremy Jacobs, who lives in Buffalo (I mean, really?) and always spent enough money to compete but never quite enough to win. But looking back, I'm realizing that it wasn't Jacobs as much as me turning on the product itself: I grew up watching potbellied, heavy-footed, toothless bald guys like Wayne Cashman coexisting with occasionally brilliant offensive players like Bobby Orr or Rick Middleton. There was always the right balance: You had your muckers, your fighters, your scorers, your playmakers, your two guys on each team who skated faster than everyone else, your token European … thrown together, everything just worked. Then the Euros and Russians flooded the league, along with the helmets and face shields, and suddenly there were no more potbellied bald guys, and they started cracking down on the chippiness, and the Devils trap ruined the flow of the game, and there were suddenly 10 new teams in cities that never should have had a team, and … wait a second, what the hell was I watching? I just couldn't adjust.
I think that, if this is going to be your stance that this paragraph works well, though I disagree with most of it. What doesn’t work is the opening sentence. Not as a standalone or as part of that sentence cluster’s motif. I mean, I just don’t get it. “(F)its in better” with what? Your attitude? Your television-viewing schedule? Your propensity to ditch teams when they’re not succeeding? If you’re trying to draw a comparison to the game and the adaptations it’s made based on consistent changes in the pro-sports world, then you’re simply stating the obvious. Of course guys wearing your Bs sweaters were toothless and fat when you were a kid. Just like baseball players chewed a ton more, managers fired down heaters in the dugout, football players didn’t train as hard, and the NBA was a little bit whiter. Same reason people used to ingest a dozen hamburgers a day, and the same reason people drove around with their kids on their laps. Kids whose mothers drank and smoked while pregnant with them: They didn't know any different or better.
Back then you didn’t necessarily have to be trim, fit, and speedy to compete at the NHL level. Nobody was too concerned with protecting your dome or your teefs –- I mean, we are talking about a game that didn’t used to have its goalies wear masks. But the game grows, and with that growth, the talent pool expands, and the dumpy guys with the receding hairlines go the way of the BetaMax. “(T)he Euros and Russians” make the game better because they bring their own skating style, their own collection of talents, and increased competition. And as far as the gripe with the Devils trap, it’s called coaching. New Jersey wants to run a trap? Then, the Islanders, say, better figure out a way to coach around it. Or through it. It’s no different than the 1-3-1 that Guy Boucher’s Tampa Bay Lightning –- the club that just took your Bruins to seven in the Conference Finals -– ran all post-season. Claude Julien and his staff figured out a way to beat it, but there’s no arching complaint lob coming from your side of the net on that one. It’s no different than NFL clubs running the Wildcat.
Did coaches and players and sportswriters sit around griping that this wasn’t their old West Coast offense? No. They either prepared their teams to try and beat it, and about half of them wedged their own take on it into their own playbook. You adjust. And you certainly don’t get out your megaphone and begin firing off the proverbial back-in-my-day speech. That’s the kind of tone that will make people wonder if your craft has passed you by, sir. What I want to say, though, is that it’s fine if you couldn’t adjust. I’m not going to criticize you for it, but I suggest your exploration be intrinsic instead of otherwise.
They created a hard salary cap after the 2005 lockout that kept ticket prices down and helped the Bruins (suddenly Jacobs wasn't a factor); so did a few smart rule changes, widescreen HD televisions (the games look splendific, which isn't even a word), and the sport's unannounced return to the days when men were men. In basketball, you can't look at someone cross-eyed without getting a technical. In football, you can't touch the quarterback or the receivers anymore. In baseball, you can't throw at anyone even after they've just taken 20 seconds to complete a home run trot. Hockey swung the other way: It will never endorse something as sleazy as Rome's hit on Horton, but Thomas' getting pissed off because Burrows kept being a dick and hitting Thomas' stick? Absolutely. Do your thing, Tim Thomas. Cross check him in the head, get your two-minute minor, make your point.
I like this paragraph, save the phrase, “the sport’s unannounced return to the days when men were men.” Somewhere in there is a seed of an idea, but it’s one of those notions you can’t just launch out there without developing it at least a little. As is, I don’t even know what it means. Did men cease to be men at some point? Is this a reference to the men of the world, how they used to be one way, changed, and now the game of hockey resembles the original way, or is that idea particular to the sport. If it’s the latter, that’s foolish. Hockey has always been (pound for pound), the toughest sport with the toughest players in the world. If this naked concept was meant to imply that hockey players were less tough during the period in which Mr. Simmons checked out, then I implore him to dress it up, because that, SportsGuy, is a grotesque body covered with excess hairy flesh and horrific scars.
Of course, real hockey fans stuck with the sport through the toughest times; they don't want someone like me returning as if nothing ever happened, like some adulterous husband who moved out for a few years, waited until his wife dropped 20 pounds and got implants, then suddenly decided he wanted to win her back. Every time I tweet about hockey or mention it in a column, I'll get a few insults about being a bandwagon fan. When some people online noticed me in the background of this picture taken right after Rich Peverley's first goal, I got crushed by a few blogs for being a front-runner.
This is an interesting statement here, and I have zero idea what the insults sound like, and frankly, I’m torn about the fact that he got/gets them. On the one hand -– and this is always the biggest, most-important hand –- anytime a sportswriter with as far-reaching an audience (regardless of medium) as SportsGuy is saying anything about hockey, it’s a positive. For example, launching a project like grantland.com -- which is cool and has an all-star cast -– with a post about hockey is fantastic. I always view the growth of the game as a fragile entity, though, and so with such a far reach comes a certain risk-and-injury factor. I mean, there are probably a portion of Simmons readers that, if told that hockey was dumb and they should never consume it ever, they might listen. Not a slam on the audience; I envision the majority of them to be intelligent. But, on the other hand -– and I’ve already mentioned this more than once and in several ways –- Careful With That Axe, Eugene. I’ve put together a series of playoff posts that have some stats and trends in them, and the purpose of which was to attempt to gather a rudimentary look at whether or not sports and hockey fans are getting a better product than ever before.
Of course, by “ever before,” I mean the last 10 years, because you’ve got to start with a small sample size, and I questioned the value in digging 20 and 25 years back. From a personal standpoint, I knew the answer before I looked up my first stat: Damn skippy, we are. I can tell that by watching the standings develop as the league rolls through games 79, 80, 81, and 82, on into the Conference Quarter-Finals that the product is better than ever before. Heck, I knew that watching last year’s post-season, and the previous two Winter Classics. But before I’m accused of saying the same thing as SportsGuy, understand that I’m not. What I’m saying is that Mr. Simmons left the game because it –- or perhaps his team/its ownership -– grew stale to him. The game didn’t dip in value in the early ‘90s, wallow in darkness leading up to the lockout, and only now, has it skyrocketed to best-ever status, conveniently at a time in which the Bruins have figured out how to take their post-season lumps and not let them cripple their playoff progression. No, sir. The game has been growing all the while. It’s been making a sound in the forest. SportsGuy just hasn’t been around to hear it.
Technically, they're right: I loved hockey until I was 24. From 1995 to 2007, I didn't care about hockey unless the Bruins made the playoffs, and even then, I didn't really care. The 2008 playoffs sucked me back a little, then the 2009 and 2010 playoffs made a little more ground. This year, two young Boston forwards (Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand(6)) swayed me toward regular-season hockey for the first time in forever. I found myself watching more playoff hockey this spring than just the Bruins; honestly, I found Canucks-Hawks, Red Wings-Sharks, and Canucks-Sharks to be equally entertaining(7). Isn't roping someone like me back in a good thing for hockey? Do you know how rare it is for a product to lose a consumer, then get him or her to come back? Usually with these things, once you're gone, you're gone. And if hockey keeps building its audience, maybe every finals game would appear on network TV, and maybe we wouldn't have any more situations like the three times this spring when I couldn't watch a playoff game because my hotel didn't carry Versus.
I like the column to which the author linked there, because it dabbles in his return to hockey fandom. It also touches on something I had not really noticed until I started doing some hard-core numbers crunching: The Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens have met in the post-season eleventy billion times. It’s unreal. Like a fix, a rig, a scam, a sham, a hoax, a prank, and a joke all rolled into a water-squirting flower on the vest of Pope at his daughter’s wedding. It’s unreal. I’m not going to take the time to look, but I’d wager that they’ve played one another double the amount of times the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have met in the MLB playoffs. And like those baseball counterparts, they play in the same division, so they already know one another real well, come season’s end. This fascinates me to no end.
Look, I totally get the Cult of the Status Quo, which afflicts MMA fans, hockey fans, and American soccer fans, in particular —- they all have a chip on their shoulder because they're still in that "we're all rooting for a local music band and we don't want it to go mainstream" stage, so they unabashedly drive away anyone late to the party. (It's the reason Springsteen die-hards loathe the "Born in the U.S.A" album —- from that point on, Springsteen belonged to everybody, not just them.) Here's my counter: What was more fun than the 1994 NHL Playoffs? Remember that? The spring after Jordan split to play baseball and before the Devils ruined all momentum with their stupid trap, when Sports Illustrated had that cover wondering if hockey was passing basketball, when the Rangers played two straight epic seven-game series against Jersey and Vancouver that everyone watched? Don't we want to get back to THAT point? How can that happen if you don't have enough fans?
Speaking of fascinating me to no end, this poisonous nugget needs a warning label on it. It’s dangerous to parse through, and if you dare to do so, you could wind up contradicting yourself faster than the Boston/Vancouver game-two overtime period. The part about the shoulder chip is true. I carry a hockey chip on my shoulder, but it doesn’t resemble what’s in quotes there. What it resembles has more to do with a timeline than it does any anti-mainstream local rah-rah. What I mean by that is that dudes like SportsGuy are lucky to have grown up watching hockey, and even luckier that they had a hometown team. Being a Kansas Citian, my town had the Scouts make their NHL debut the year I was born, and before I was three, they were gone. Their stay in Denver lasted six seasons, and off to New Jersey they went. What this meant for me growing up was that there was absolutely zero hockey awareness in my home and in my neighborhood.
I have the darkest memory of the Lake Placid games being on the tube, but that was it. This is the way things were in the Midwest, and if you look at the timeline of NHL expansion, pickins were nothing but slim for the longest time. The biggest, most-successful league expansion happened in 1967. Six new teams were added to the original six. One is now defunct, the other has a new home. Two more teams were added three years later, and they still call Vancouver and Buffalo home. Two years later, two more teams came aboard, one of which still resides in Long Island; the other would become the first of two failed NHL experiments in Atlanta. Kansas City and Washington joined the mix in ’74, and a few other shifts happened throughout the late ‘70s before the Rockies became the Devils.
Here’s the point: Between two years prior to SportsGuy’s birth (1969) and the San Jose Sharks joining the league in 1991, there were never more than four teams east of St. Louis, and for most of that time there were only three. That obviously mirrors the initial development of the United States itself –- everything clustered in and around New England, then spread –- but it didn’t mean that kids of my generation didn’t grow up without baseball, football, basketball, and soccer, the latter of course being the sport many folks start in before moving on to something else. There simply was no room, or interest for that matter, for hockey, and that’s largely based on awareness of it, or rather, a lack thereof.
I played all of those sports as a kid, and some as a young adult, but the thought of hockey really never even occurred to me until high school, and it did only then via a Nintendo game. I discovered it freshman year of college –- the same year of that Canucks/Rangers Finals -- bonded with it, and my passion for it has grown every year since. I believe it’s the greatest game on the planet. I want it to grow. I want people to experience playing it, to experience fandom, for it to be talked about on a level that somewhat resembles the water-cooler chatter associated with the NBA, the NFL, and MLB. I don’t have any desire for it to overtake those sports, nor do I think that will ever happen. I’m just tired of it being foreign to so many. This, however, is changing, and changing exactly where it needs to: in organized youth sports. It’s a slow process, and it will never develop with the speed and popularity that basketball, football, and baseball do/did, largely because it’s so damn expensive. Most any kid can go down to the park and shoot some hoops. Many kids find a way to get onto an organized baseball or football team. Those facilities exist, and their sports have programs in schools and in the community. It’s not as easy to find a sheet of ice and drop the coin necessary to gear up and play on it.
The point is that I don’t care if you’re late to the party. I’m just stoked you came. I know there are tons of Springsteen fans out there, and there are a few that hate him. I like his first three albums now, as an adult, having sought them out for the sake of curiosity, but that doesn’t change the way I felt about Born in the USA when it came out. Great freaking album. Hockey doesn’t have to be that way. It doesn’t have to belong to those who loved it first or earlier. It can be loved by all. I don’t not recognize the toying-with-absurdity aspect of such a statement, but it’s what I believe. Regarding the ’94 playoffs, here’s my answer to what was more fun than it: Almost every season since. Sure, the Devils (and their stupid trap) took home the Cup the year after Messier and Company, but the artists formerly known as the Quebec Nordiques hoisted it the following year, and living in Colorado, I gotta tell you that that was awesome.
I’ll also add that that was the largest exhibition of bandwagonism I’ve ever seen, but I don’t hold it against them. It merely makes for the occasional no-harm-no-foul joke. The next three years were brutal, in that Detroit won consecutive championships (Editor’s Note: Didn’t take long for me to establish a hatred for them.), and one of those came at the expense of the Flyers, and I just so happened to have made a bunch of Philly friends (in southwest CO) by that point. And if there’s a low point in my hockey-fandom career, it was watching the ‘Wings sweep the Capitals. I wanted nothing more than this team I could find zero reason to get behind (other than the fact that I hated Detroit) to win, and they got flat-out embarrassed. After that it was Brett skate-in-the-crease Hull and the Dallas Stars winning in six over Buffalo, which was an amazing Finals, short-changed as it was. Dallas/New Jersey wasn’t terrible either, but it was hard to have a horse in that race.
After that, you get Ray Bourque. Sixteen W. One of the top-three sports memories of my entire life. Another Detroit championship followed, but two things happened for me that year: 1) I really began to appreciate what an amazing hockey club the Detroit Redwings have, and that their fan base is as widespread as it is made me hate them even more, a la the Yankees, Lakers, and Raiders. 2) I got on the Carolina Hurricanes/Ronnie Franchise bandwagon. Great team to pull for. Really wanted the Ducks to knock off the Devils in ’03 since I’d gotten tired of seeing them and hey -– anybody that sweeps the ‘Wings drinks for free at my bar.
I’ll admit with no qualms that having the Tampa Bay Lightning win the Stanley Cup was odd. I found it in me to appreciate the stars of that team, but also felt that their fan base lacked a little enthusiasm. On the other end, it was great for Canada to have a team in the Finals again, and that Calgary Flames squad was really likable, what with Craig Conroy –- one of my all-time favorite Blues -– and the new hype in the form of the dazzling Jarome Iginla. Plus, Roman Turek had been shipped to Calgary and was riding the pine. Win, win. Not to mention that they took Tampa the distance. Great series.
Naturally, the lockout was a drag, but as I mentioned, the league, in my biased eyes, came back strong, and that Hurricane fan base was a savage bunch. Had to respect ‘em. Also, watching Dave Andreychuk get a Cup the year before was great. It was impossible for that to top the Bourque moment, but having the pleasure of watching Rod Brind’Amour heave that trophy in the air was, well…let’s just say it got a little dusty in the living room that evening. With the Ducks championship, you got a) the awesomeness of another veteran getting their first, this time with dual-brother action, b) another Canadian team in the mix –- gotta throw ‘em a bone now and again, and most importantly c) no shortage of Snoop Dogg in attendance and rocking an Anaheim sweater.
I could take or leave Pittsburgh and Detroit being in contention in consecutive years, but they were great series, nonetheless. Mario –- even though he dissed Kansas City a little –- seeing his franchise notch another championship was pretty sweet, and again, ‘Wings foes are my friends. Things really got sizzling with Chicago/Philly last year, and really, the whole post-season was one for the ages, only to be outdone by this year’s. I realize that this sort of jives with what SportsGuy is saying, but the tidbit to remember is that the awesomeness of the game hasn’t gone anywhere, that many a Finals have rivaled the awesomeness of Canucks/Rangers. I find it a bit of a reach to suggest that everyone watched in the spring of 1994. Perhaps a poll on Grantland could prove interesting.
From what I can tell, hockey solved every pressing issue except for one: It still needs more Canadian teams. Winnipeg was a good start; I hope Quebec and a second Toronto team are next. Call me crazy, but I think we want as many teams as possible in the country that cares about hockey the most. Just seems like a logical plan. My dream scenario: two of the WTFDTCHAHT's move to Quebec and Toronto(8), giving us 10 Canadian teams (I'm including Buffalo, our only bisexual North American city —- it can go either way). Throw in Minnesota and Detroit (right on the Canadian border) and a Seattle team (let's build an NBA/NHL arena there already), and suddenly we're looking at an entire conference that I'd tentatively call "The Top Half Of North America Conference" (I know, it needs some work).
The idea that the league needs more Canadian teams is one with which I mildly disagree. Didn’t the league just have to almost rescue Calgary six or seven years ago? Isn’t there the issue of a lack of season-ticket dollars swirling in and out of the provinces? Actually, I don’t like the idea at all. I want this sport to grow in the United States. Whether or not that’s a realistic wish, I’m unsure. My thought, though, is that everybody already knows that Canadians love hockey. Having more Canadian teams seems, to me, to fuel the tired let-the-Canadians-have-their-game mantra that still gets thrown around amongst the hating clans. I was, and still am, concerned that Winnipeg will be able to support, much in the same way I’m certain that Kansas City could not.
When I moved back to K.C. 11 years ago, a fine gentleman by the name of Paul McGannon created an organization called NHL21, the goal of which was to bring professional hockey to the area by 2001. Ten years later, here we still are, hoping that the Calgary Flames will falter, that the Mario Lemieuxs will divorce their cities and come play in our shiny building, that the “Boots” DelBiaggios will Art Modell the city of Nashville, that the Atlanta Thrashers will get the commissioner’s approval to come to Kansas City. None of that has even seemed close to possible, save when Lemieux came to town for a tour of the Sprint Center and took his positive reviews back to Pittsburgh so that the city could hasten the casino-funded construction of the CONSOL Energy Center.
Don’t get me wrong. I love every ounce of energy McGannon has put into the program. He’s facilitated four or five exhibition contests here in town, and the Penguins and Kings will be here for another in September. On Wednesday night, for game four, his group hosted a watch party. I got there late because I had a game of my own, but there were like 10 people watching the Canucks fall apart. When I spoke with Paul, I voiced my displeasure regarding the turnout, to which he said, “No, no. We had a good crowd, but people have to work,” etc. When I tabbed out, the bartender estimated that there were roughly 30 people in attendance at the onset. Thirty.
So I have no idea what it takes to estimate what kind of fan base a city can generate. Carolina, Nashville, Anaheim and San Jose have all been pleasant surprises, while Atlanta has now gone 0-2, and all signs point to Phoenix folding the tent next. I don’t have the answers, but I have the change-the-culture philosophy, which makes me literally hate the gall SportsGuy has to throw around WTFDTCHAHT.
Math has never been my strong suit, but adding Winnipeg, then a second Toronto team and a Quebec team to the mix seems to add up to nine. How the author thinks this will make 10 Canadian teams is a bit of a head-scratcher, but it’s possible I’m overlooking something. I say this because on my maps, Buffalo is in New York, which, last time I checked, is in the United States, and not a go-either-way type of cat. Kidding aside, Quebec will support a franchise this time why? And build a venue in Seattle? Didn’t the Sonics just blaze town? Like I said, I don’t have the answers, but at this point, I don’t think SportsGuy does either.
Regardless, I can't believe Gary Bettman actually pulled off a little momentum here; it's like imagining life if Fredo had beaten the odds and figured out the casino business. I was done with hockey. I was finished. But the sports brought me back for all the right reasons. Sure, I can't (and won't) take nearly as much satisfaction that the Bruins are two wins away from the Stanley Cup as the die-hards who stuck with them through thick and thin —- fans like my father, a true fan for 40 years who never turned his back on them even in the darkest times, unlike his front-running son. The last time the Bruins won the Cup, my father was going to law school and bartending every night. He missed the whole thing. He's been watching ever since. He never gave up on hockey, not even right before and right after the lockout. That's why I flew back to take him to the game. It was 40 years overdue.
And here we are again, trotting the Has-Beens out to the mound. Really with the Bettman business? Give the guy some credit. You are, after all, claiming that the game is better now than ever (as am I), and all of that has happened on his watch. Another poll idea for Grantland: Ask hockey fans if they actually know why the Bettman boos were started, and why they continue today. The whole thing is akin to Hooliganism. You brawl because you see others doing it, and you know that the ManU masses have done it for years. You’re not sure if it’s right or wrong or foolish or fun, but damn it all if you’re gonna do any thinking for yourself.
Now he needs two more Bruins wins. Like always, it's probably coming down to the goalies, a great sign for Boston since Luongo just gave up two more goals while I was typing this paragraph. Before Vancouver pulled him in Game 4, the Boston crowd was derisively singing, "Loooooo-on-goooooooooooo. Loooooo-on-goooooooooooo. Loooooo-on-goooooooooooo." Is that sound still ringing through his head? Are Vancouver fans freaked out that their greatest fear -— Luongo melting down like a volcano —- might actually be happening? Will Ryan Kesler throw the Canucks on his back again like he did against Nashville? Will Milan Lucic keep playing out of his mind like he did in Game 4? Will the Sedin twins introduce a new flop that we've never seen before? Will the Canucks finally bite back instead of letting themselves get pushed around? Er, fight back? And why does it feel like this has to end with a seventh game? I wish it was best of 13.
Speaking of things that occurred in mid-draft, I watched the Canucks take two dives in the first period of game five last night, hours after I’d typed some words lashing Mr. Simmons for supposing that they were floppers. Thanks, guys. Thanks a lot. Anyway, hooray for more bite jokes!
One last thing: I was lucky enough to attend Game 3 and 4 of the NBA Finals, then Game 4 of the NHL finals, within a span of 75 hours. If you remember, Games 3 and 4 in Dallas were pretty freaking compelling. I thoroughly enjoyed them, loved the atmosphere, loved the drama, everything. Even feel like I may have witnessed a little history on Tuesday with LeBrondown II. But you know what? The hockey game was a slightly better live sporting event, and I would have said that whether the Bruins were involved or not. It flowed a little better. It makes you feel like every second matters. Every time someone scored, you felt like the roof was caving in. Even when there's a blowout, you have to keep watching because you never know when one team wants to send a message to the other.
Yes, Mr. Simmons. I do know what. Post-season hockey has had post-season basketball on the ropes for a few years, maybe since the end of David Robinson’s career, possibly since Jordan retired. I’m aware that television ratings and ticket sales don’t support such a claim, but I’ll fight to the death in support of the argument that playoff hockey, in terms of the product, trumps anything that Kobe or LeBron have ever done or will ever do. The trouble is that this country grew up with basketball, and the NBA is the ceiling of the sport, so fans gravitate towards it. And without getting into my gripes about in-game dunk contests and the lack of fundamental defense, hockey does flow better. A lot better. Every second does matter, and the energy of those buildings goes unmatched across the pro-sports spectrum.
And yet, my favorite part happened before the game, when the fans respectfully waited out "O Canada," then belted out the "Star Spangled Banner" at the top of their lungs: partly to prove a patriotic point, partly because we were so happy to be there, and partly because it was the Stanley Cup finals and that's what you do. I had goose bumps on my goose bumps. What a moment. So thank you, hockey. I might be a front-runner who ditched you once upon a time, and I know you probably won't let me move back in. Just know that you've never looked better, and if you'd always looked this way, I never would have left.
Though there are some –- perhaps many that will disagree with me -– I don’t care if you’re a front-runner, and I will most certainly let you back in. It bothers me that you ditched the game, but I’m not trying to be in the business of holding grudges. I’m ecstatic that you think the game never looked better. I think it does, too, but I cannot let you off the hook for suggesting that the look of the game fell into some ugly hole that nobody wanted to rescue. It’s been aided by the salary cap and by the rule changes, but mostly it’s the talent pool, and the growth of the game. Had you not checked out post-Messier hoist, you may have found many other memories to keep you attached to the greatest game on the planet.
1. Sorry for the lack of bias —- I couldn't help it.
2. Across from the old Boston Garden, Halftime Pizza used to show tapes of Bruins fights before every game. People would eat slices and just stare at fight after fight for like 20 minutes. I'm sure this is the case in Philly, as well, but in Boston, being tougher than everyone else from year to year mattered nearly as much as winning. That's why Stan Jonathan's beat down of Montreal's Pierre Bouchard became such an iconic moment — maybe the Canadiens were better than us those years, but we'll always have Jonathan-Bouchard.
3. Horton had been Boston's best forward in the playoffs and a potential Conn Smythe candidate. I think that's the single strangest thing about hockey: A third-line defenseman can knock out a first-line forward and, to some degree, it's part of the game. Can you imagine if Brian Cardinal clotheslined Chris Bosh in Game 3 of the Finals, they carried Bosh off on a stretcher, he got scratched for the series … and then the series just kept going as if nothing ever happened? Actually, let's try this and see what it's like.
4. I once watched a Red Sox game in the Yankee Stadium bleachers while wearing a Bruins jersey, Red Sox hat and Celtics shorts. My friends were horrified. Nothing happened other than about 1,500 funny insults getting thrown my way.
5. This is a really important point —- it's just that I devoted a whole column to it in 2009 and didn't want to repeat myself.
6. Marchand gets his own footnote: As my dad says, "We never have guys like him," one of those annoyingly talented pests who gets away with dirty plays when the officials aren't looking, always seems to be in the right place at the right time, plays his ass off, isn't afraid of anyone, and genuinely pisses off other teams. He's like Claude Lemieux —- you hate him when he's on the other team, you love him when he's on yours. In my lifetime, only Ken Linseman was like that for the Bruins, but it was always hard to commit to Linseman because he was the only athlete whose neck had chest hair. It's much more fun to root for Marchand. I love that guy.
7. Ratings for Game 1 were the highest of any Game 1 since 1999 and 14 percent higher than last year's Game 1 (Philly vs. Chicago). To paraphrase Terrence Mann, if the product is good, people will come.
8. WTFDTCHAHT stands for "Why the fuck does that city have a hockey team?" I'm looking at you, Nashville. And you, too, Phoenix.
Bill Simmons is the Editor in Chief of Grantland and the author of the recent New York Times No. 1 best-seller The Book of Basketball, now out in paperback with new material and a revised Hall of Fame Pyramid. For every Simmons column and podcast, log on to Grantland. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sportsguy33 and check out his new home on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/billsimmons.
bankmeister is the Editor-in-Chief of this site and the author of some stuff published in his high-school and college newspapers. He is neither a best-selling author, nor does the New York Times even know that he exists. His new book is sitting in a disheveled pile on his desk, and will likely never know another home. He has no podcast, and no current plans to launch an awesome Website with some of his best writing peers, but he does frequently log on to Facebook and has a Twitter account, which you can find here.