Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Veni, Vidi, Vici: The succesful invasion of Montreal

This was originally posted at Pension Plan Puppets


It was an epic weekend in Montreal.  For those of you who missed it, now you know the rest of the story.

Day 1 - After a long drive with eyebleaf and Archimedies we arrived in Montreal ready to party.  JaredfromLondon was already there and as expected had got into the booze.  Arch and eyebleaf went to pick up wraparoundcurl (all the way from Spokane) and Vancouver blogger, Alix .  We spent the night going to a couple different bars and ended up riling up some Habs fans.  While sitting on a patio an inebriated young man wearing a wife-beater and proudly describing himself as an anglophone in Quebec walked up to us extolling the virtues of the French-Canadian goalies in the NHL: Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur and Martin Fleury.   As Chemmy later commented Martin Fleury is incrdible.  He's never given up a goal.  The French-Canadian goalie expert didn't seem to know who Roberto Luongo was when asked.

Day 2 - After stumbling out of bed for a greasy breakfast/lunch we headed over to a bar to pick up more tickets for the draft as eyebleaf didn't receive his and I only had 4 for the 6 of us.  While there we met a Habs fan, Tabitha also waiting for tickets whose mom was waiting in line.  Jared and I went and lined up with the mom so we could get in early and save seats for the others including Chemmy and SkinnyFish.  They eventually got in and we all met up except for plantheparade and fantasyrealm who got their tickets later and were in another section. 

As soon as I got to my seats the Habs fans already started the "Leafs suck" chant to which I responded with a "bring it on" gesture and "Go Leafs Go", joined in by Leafs fans sitting on the other side of the Bell Centre.  We then spent the next 3 long hours watching Burkie, who was the first one onto the floor, hoping something miraculous would happen.  As we all know now nothing did, which was sort of disappointing but didn't spoil our fun. 

The bonus  of our location is that we were within shouting distance of PPP who had press passes and was sitting in a suit next to other media hordes.  Chemmy took full advantage.  "Juuullian! Plug the website!",  "Juuulian! You're handsome!", then when Schenn was drafted "Juuulian!  Shit!" and when Ekman-Larsson went to the Coyotes "Julian! Who's stupid now?".  When Bettman was announcing Phoenix was on the clock he did it with his usual (lack of) class and emphasized Phoenix, which incensed the Canadian crowd including people like me who don't support a Hamilton franchise to chant "Hamilton" in response.  When the Leafs picked the Habs went with the ever-creative "1967" chant, which we waited to die down before chanting Kadri's name and "Go Leafs Go!".

Wrap was already dreading it when the Leafs passed on Cowen and her worst fears were realized moments later when Dallas passed on him and Ottawa selecting him became an inevitability.  When the pick was finally announced and he put on his jersey she was near nears.   To make it worse we now all must hate Cowen.  Hope he never plays. 

We later met Wysh and Travis, a Flyers blogger.  After another night of pounding back drinks, listening to an awesome live band and chanting "Go Leafs Go" at the bar we stumbled back to our hotels. On the way Jared almost punched the blood out of some Habs fan who was giving us lip but his buddy wisely guided him away from Jared

Day 3 - Other than PPP none of us woke up to go to the second round.  We did end up going to Schwartz's instead for smoked meat.  We spent most of the afternoon sleeping gearing up for the PPPPPPPPP (Peel Pub Presents: Pension Plan Puppets Pint Partaking Party").  Prior to that though we went to a Mexican restaurant and unveiled what would end up being the theme song of the trip.  After spying a jukebox and seeing the servers dancing and grooving to the music Chemmy's devious mind came up with an idea to play a song over and over again in order to see the reaction.  We settled on "What's New Pussycat" 5 times in a row followed by "It's Not Unusual" three times only to return for an encore of "What's New Pussycat". The jukebox for some mysterious reason anticipated such plans and only allowed us to play each song once.  I of course asked to speak to the manager and told him I paid $3.50 and only got two songs.  After some hemming and hawing he eventually agreed to give me back the $3 which we immediately put back into the machine choosing the most obnoxious songs possible bookended of course by "What's New Pussycat". Halfway through our song list they turned the volume lower and when "What's New Pussycat" came on for the last time they shut the music off completely which led us to singing it ourselves. 

The night ended with the giant pitchers and champagne at the PPPPPPPPP at which Wysh got caught with someone wearing an obvious Jersey Foul and a drunk Isles fan talked about the merits of DiPietro over Luongo and a Fox News influenced political opinion.

Our attempts at getting "What's New Pussycat" played there failed despite promises of tips for the DJ and waitress.

Day 4 - Eyebleaf, arch, Alix, PPP and I all stuffed in a car for the trip to Toronto.

All in all great trip.  Cheers to all who made it out:  PPP, Chemmy, eyebleaf, Archimedies, JaredFromLondon, wraparoundcurl, alix, SkinnyFish, say "plan the parade one more time", and fantasyrealm.ca.  Let's do it again sometime.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Woohoo! I'm heading to Montreal on Thursday to spend some time with the good people at Pension Plan Puppets and expect to have fun cheering on the Leafs pick in Round 1 and possibly stumbling out of bed with a massive hangover for Day 2. Some people would have some concern over spending a weekend with random people they've never met before who's only known commonality is a love for the Leafs but I feel no such fear. After all I have Wendel watching over me and OLAS on my side.

As for the actual draft I'm holding out hope that Burkie can pull off a miracle and move up into the top 5 by snagging Atlanta or L.A.'s pick. That way he can get Brayden Schenn, aka the brother of God Jr. or Evander Kane, aka the other guy. I'm not hoping for a top 3 pick because I think it would cost far more than what would be acceptable for a rebuilding franchise. I think he will make some sort of big move, because after all that's what he's known for but even if Burke doesn't manage to move up the Leafs could still pick up a great player in Jared Cowen at 7th. If that happens I expect to head to a karaoke bar to sing "I am Cow" by the Arrogant Worms for the remainder of the night. The only player ranked in the top 10 that I do not want the Leafs to draft is Magnus long last name. The Leafs in all honesty need an influx of toughness and MSP is not going to provide that as much as Schenn or even the lower rated Kassian would.

Any way it goes it should be fun and if it doesn't go well we can always burn the city to the ground.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Take the Money and Run

Marian Hossa and Mats Sundin both have one thing in common. Despite both having a lot of skill neither has won a Stanley Cup and both would like to add one to their resume.

Hossa in order to do so left a 5 year multimillion dollar contract on the table and went to the Red Wings for a paycut and a one year deal. Hossa was praised for his decision by the media labelling him as a rare example of an athlete that was not a mercenary. He was following the example of Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne who also took major paycuts to leave a one-year removed Stanley Cup Finalist Ducks team to play for the Colorado Avalanche, who they felt were closer to winning a Cup. The experiment badly failed. Kariya still has not won a Cup and Selanne only won one by returning to the team he had spurned.

As for Sundin he hemmed and hawed before signing on to play with a Canucks team, while decent, that wasn't a true Cup contender but paid him more money than any other team. When he signed Sundin was offended by the suggestion that he signed for a team that didn't have a legitimate chance at a Cup.

The end result: both ended up without the Stanley Cup. Sundin though has a lot more money to console him.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Raptors Endangered?

As Chris Bosh has announced his intentions to test the free agent market next off season his days in Toronto are or at least should be numbered. Only the most deluded Raptors fan could think that Bosh would re-sign after becoming a free agent. Bryan Colangelo cannot afford to let Bosh go for nothing and even though it is hard to get a fair trade in the NBA, for a player like Bosh (though he is overrated), something must be done and he will be traded if not in this offseason, at the trade deadline or in a sign-and-trade next offseason.

Bosh joins a list of disgruntled players that left Toronto either because they didn't want to play here or they got sick of playing here.

Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Alonzo Mourning, Kenny Anderson, and the first pick ever in the expansion draft, BJ Armstrong, all left because they were unhappy to be in Toronto and in the case of Mourning, Anderson and Armstrong refused to even report. McGrady left even though he knew he could, like Bosh, be paid more by the Raptors than any other team.

For a team with a relatively young history that is a worrisome trend. Then there is the inability of the team to draw first tier free agents. Sure they can attract the Garbajosa's and Jason Kapono's of the world but in order to be a successful team they must be able to get the big names to come to Toronto. The only big name they signed was Hakeep Olaujawon but that was when they overpaid for a player that was way past his prime. Does any Raptors fan even hold any hope that they could in the future?

A major reason for this is the misperception of Toronto and Canada that is prevalent in the United States. Toronto is seen as a cold foreboding place and even though many of the players who come here love the city, its culture and its people for new NBA players and those who don't get to visit the city on road trips as often the image remains.

Then there is also the assumption that playing in Canada denies you the ability to sign more lucrative merchandising deals. This is again a misconception as a player like Vince Carter signed huge deals despite being a member of the Raptors.

With Chris Bosh leaving the Raptors have to face the question of how they plan to attract and keep star players. They cannot build a championship team without it even if the European players they sign exceed expectations. They could try the route of building a team of hardworking players without a superstar but to win an NBA title like that, in a league that has so many dominant individuals, would be an unprecedented feat.

Even though the Raptors are very popular within the city of Toronto they have not dented the market outside of the city despite having a national television contract. They are continuously dwarfed by the TV ratings of any hockey or Blue Jays coverage. Non-Raptors NBA coverage gets ratings so low that even end of day static does better.

This poses a serious question for the future of the franchise. If the team continuously loses its good players and wallows amongst the dregs of the NBA how much of a future can they have in the city? How many fans will want to continue being a fan of a team that they know can never win because they cannot entice the players to come or stay? They will also be labelled as a losing team which will make players more reluctant to play here. It is a vicious cycle. Eventually the Raptors fans that do exist will become cynical if they aren't already. If the Raptors sign a great young player through the NBA Draft Toronto fans will shower him with praise and adulation but those who are not deluded will know or at least sense that come free agency chances are high he will go. Toronto has already shown that they will support the Raptors when they are successful but an unsuccessful Raptors team will soon be playing in front of empty houses. The Raptors despite being backed by Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment are not the Leafs and Toronto tends to support its winners. The patience of the casual fan will wear thin and they will stop showing up to Raptors games.

The Raptors organization has got to do a better job on selling Toronto to NBA players. Bryan Colangelo was brought in partly to change the perception of this team around the League and at that task he most surely has failed. If things do not change the team may be forced to go the way of so many past players and leave Toronto. Even though this may be a long ways off the discussion on what to do to avoid it must begin.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The _________Brothers

Back in the period of 1987-1992 steroid freaks and Oakland A's stars Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire were nicknamed "The Bash Brothers". They were a formidable duo for pitchers to face. Canseco became the first 40-40 man and McGwire hit close to 50 home runs in his rookie season. They enabled the A's to win a World Series, 2 additonal ALCS victories, and a 1992 AL West division title.

In 2009 Toronto has it's own duo, Vernon Wells and Alex Rios. Vernon Wells with the sub .200 batting average with RISP and Alex Rios, who struck out 5 times in 5 AB in Thursday's matinee game. This is the same Rios who wandered off the bag in Baltimore, in the game they infamously blew, costing the Jays an out and a possible rally at a time where they had a big lead but a lead they ultimately surrendered. There are lots of names we can suggest for Rios and Wells. I'm a fan of bad puns so inspired by the defunct bank the Lehman Brothers we can call them "The Lame-an Brothers". There's also "The Choking Brothers", "The Overpaid Brothers", "The Useless Brothers", "The Invisible Brothers", "The Ghost Brothers" etc.

Suggest your own because like it or not we're stuck with them.