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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bill Wirtz dead; A fan perspective

A public figure has died. It is not, I think, too early to consider the legacy of Bill Wirtz. It is very decidedly mixed. I won’t be singing ding-dong the witch is dead. A man has died of a terrible disease. Yet, he is leaving a mixed legacy behind him. And this is probably the saddest thing I can think to say about his life: at the moment of death, some people rejoiced.

I am a hockey fan. Aside from the bland curiosity and loyalty to the Blackhawks due to their residence in the city, I have no attachment to them. Why? I don’t know! I never saw them on television, never became hooked on reading sports in the newspaper and never, ever listen to sports on radio. Until recently I couldn’t have afforded tickets. How could I have ever experienced this team?

So why buy the hats, sweaters, jackets and other merchandise that fans love to own for a team I barely knew existed? By the time I became interested in hockey it was the Wolves who would capture my dollars.

And why not? Affordable. An owner who is approachable. A great entertainment experience and a team that has won three championships and made it to the playoffs in 10 of 11 years.

I am a liquor consumer too. I won’t forget how this man engineered a law that locked retailers into relationships with their liquor distributors and then used that to gouge the consumer. What a surprise to the GOP: create an artificial monopoly and the owner will act like a monopolist.

Bill Wirtz was a philanthropist, according to the news release on the Blackhawk web site. I admit, I’m not familiar with Mr. Wirtz’ philanthropic efforts. The Blackhawks say that is because he didn’t want the attention. However, I feel these efforts, would have been even more successful if he had been able to engage the community to join him. Instead, at his death he is compared to Scrooge and Mr. Potter.

These are hardly ringing endorsements.

There are certain people, and Mike North of the Score is one in particular, who should hang their head in shame. They used this death to grandstand and gain points. Who will dance on your grave Mike North? Who will remember the shoddy professional life you scream from the dial every morning? If you have something thoughtful to say to hockey fans, a sport you rarely discuss, let’s hear it. But the triumphalism of this morning’s show was an embarrassment.

It is Wednesday, September 26, 2007 and Bill Wirtz is dead. He lived a life as a successful business owner and his death was met by rejoicing by many people. It seems as though a fulfilling and engaging spirit did not match the success of his business life.

My condolences to the Wirtz family.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

332 Miles to Hockey; Traverse City Journal

Traverse City, Michigan-- The big news here is the lack of performance by the Dallas Stars prospects. In two games here they have only scored one goal in a disorganized and what I can guess is a disappointing performance for these kids and the Dallas organization.

It was the Minnesota Wild that took them apart first, on Friday, in a 5-1 defeat. J.C. Blanchard, 19 year-old from Montreal who recently played for Victoriaville of the Quebec juniors league, was given the loss after allowing three goals in the first thirty plus minutes of play. Iowa Stars veteran Stephan Tobias, a Swiss goalie who let in two more goals, replaced him.

Mark Fistric, Matt Nickerson, Richard Clune and John Lammers joined the team from Iowa and were also noticeable on the ice with eight of the team’s 39 of 72 shots on goal and 42 of the 83 penalty minutes posted.

Blanchard is a try-out and his performance this weekend has been disappointing. However, it is not just a story of weak performance in the nets, but a frustrating inability to find the twine: only one goal in 68 shots by the Stars, and a frustrated Stars putting people in the box repeatedly, 82 minutes in two games, leading the tournament.

Starting in the second game, Blanchard gave up five goals, three in the first period, and a total of eight for the tournament so far. Although Iowa put 41 shots on goal in the second game, St. Louis Blues try-out Mike McKenna had an outstanding game, shutting the Stars prospects down. The 24 year-old McKenna played in the ECHL for Las Vegas last season, posting a .927 save and recording 24-4-7 with a 2.21 GAA.

Among the try-outs on the Atlanta roster, Arron Alphonso, an 18 year-old player from Ottawa, scored a goal, with assists by 18 year-old try-out Bosjan Golicic of Slovenia and 23 year-old try-out Jordan Fox of the Flint Generals.

Bryan Little, a 19 year-old 1st round Atlanta draft in 2006, scored three goals in the tournament, one against the New York Rangers in a Saturday loss and two against the Detroit Red Wings in a Friday win.

Dan Turple, who played for the Gwinnett Gladiators last season, made 25 saves in the loss against the Rangers, giving up five goals, including a power play goal. Atlanta prospect Ondrej Pavelec scored a win in a contest that saw him turn away 19 shots, letting in a power play goal and another goal in the win against the Wings.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

332 Miles to Hockey

Blog entry. It’s been three months since my last entry. In that time the Hamilton Bulldogs have won the Calder Cup, the United Hockey League has tried to transform itself into the International Hockey League, Todd Bertuzzi has fouled the Stanley Cup, and the team with the most physical attitude in hockey since the Broad Street Bad Boys has seized Lord Stanley’s Cup and planted in the sand by the Pacific Ocean.

I won’t even go into the recent sort of meltdown suffered by the Chicago Cubs, who today, or at least this morning, were tied with the Milwaukee Brewers in a dead heat for the first place of their division. Can you say 100?

At least there aren’t dog-fighting scandals, refs inflating the score or any of the other problems associated with the other sports.

Those were the highlights of the world of sports from my viewpoint. On to the new season.

First, I need to recognize another website. Powderhorn hockey was started over the summer by Jane Rickard, whose photos often add life to my words. Jane has become frustrated by the inability of Sit down and shut up to showcase more of her work. You’ll still find her pix here.

Now she is also speaking from her own site too.

I take the first post of the year to gather my thoughts about last year, to propose the purpose of the coming season. What worked last year was covering the Chicago Wolves like a glove. Every game. That was really hard work, but the traffic moved from discussions about Billy Tibbets (still a fan favorite) to the Wolves. It didn’t hurt either that the Rockford Ice Hogs won the Colonial Cup and that I followed them too.

There was a least one person who asked why I was covering the Ice Hogs so intensively. Here’s why, when I talk about the season that ended in June, I talk a lot about the UHL. The best stories seemed to come from the U. I think the best of these was the “They sing, they dance, they score.” Although the coverage of the Ice Hogs versus K-Wings final was also excellent.

My first goal for the new season is to find that spark from the coverage of the U and move it to the American Hockey League coverage.

The next goal is to cover the AHL’s Wolves, every game, starting with the pre-season in Traverse City.

I suppose that is enough for the blog and the related stories that appear in the Chi-Town site.

On a larger scale, Jane and I feel we’ve paid some dues. The Wolves are frankly hostile to web media. It is giving us great satisfaction to be recognized by other teams as legitimate.

So, a third goal, get media credentialed by major media for the Wolves games. Obviously that can’t be Chicago media, so it will need to be out of town media.

On a technical note, I plan to add better tags to the photos so that Google can search pictures of specific players. That will be an ongoing project as there are lots of pictures from the past year I need to go through.

There is a nice looking group of kids at the Thrashers prospect camp. It is always nice to drop the puck for the first time and, yes Holly, the ice does smell nice.

Dec 17, 2006 blog on Billy Tibbets

There is a new comment on Billy Tibbetts for the post of December 17, 2006. Billy continues to be controversial, this summer a traffic stop is alleged to have turned into a high-speed chase through the suburbs of South Boston. It was reported that it ended when Tibbetts crashed his BMW and fled on foot.

I've never seen myself as a Tibbetts hater and look forward someday to meeting him again. Reading the comment, I agree. As a young man, I would have accepted the "favors" of the young woman. And it is making me wonder about this country's recent movement to protect us from "sexual predators." In any case, here is the link to the comment: Billy Tibbetts Show