1. 4.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

OGA Road Trip II: The Game With TSN

...In my seat before the game, I jotted down the notes that were in the last post. I also got ready to follow the game.

I DID forget to mention one note in the conversations Pierre and I had pre-game. Not everyone necessarily knows Scotty Bowman gave Pierre his coaching break after seeing him run a practice and they are close personal friends. OGA's Big Tex wanted me to ask him what is the biggest lesson Scotty taught him. "...Don't let your anger get the best of you...." Sage advice for life right there as it has helped both of them be successful in life. I know for me it was a conscious thought when in front of my troops to always attempt to maintain calm no matter what was going on as it is 1) infectious, and 2) lets people know YOU know what you are doing. Both of those outcomes create a cycle that can put you past adversity and on to success in anything you do.

Down on the media level, I met Rob Del Mundo, a reporter for The Fischler Report which is, of course, Published by Stan Fischler. Rob and I spoke for a few minutes and he gave me copy of The 7 March - 13 April report. It is a great read! It's byline is "Hockey's Weekly Think Tank" and it has some great insights into the Great Game. I believe you can get to them by going to http://www.maxhockey.com/ but if that does not work, drop an email to rob_del_mundo@hotmail.com .

Fiddling with notes, I needed a drink, so went back up the stairs to grab some water. There in the concourse. locked in conversation was Brian Burke. I hoped to run into him because I wanted to ask him what in Toronto is hard to do as a GM that was easy in Anaheim, and what is difficult that was easy out West. I was resigned to only passing by, however, because he was busy. When our eyes locked for a second, I simply stuck my hand out and wished him well for the night. He smiled warmly and grasped my hand saying 'Thanks' and then was back into his conversation. Just short of a goal for the night, but there will be other opportunities.

Back down in my seat again, I pulled out my stat study I wanted to confirm or deny. I had run the gaol scoring for Toronto and Buffalo over their last ten games to come up with a profile of play of sorts I wanted to confirm or deny. The quick basics were:

1. A period of scoring for and against for the two teams from 16:59 - 10:59 in Period 1 (not validated tonight)

2. A spike in scoring from 20:00 - 16:59 in Period 2 (validated as POMINVILLE scored)

3. A scoring spike from 20:00 - 16:59 in Period 3 (validated as VANEK and GAUSTAD scored with GUASTAD also scoring during a stretch from 11:59-9:59 of this period in which he had previously scored two goals)

4. And a last scoring spike in the last three minutes of the game which was not validated.

I mention this study I had out because it is what caused Jim "Boomer" Gordon from XM Radio to sit down next to me, asking "...What do you have there?..." We talked through most of the game about Hockey, Football, Baseball, Texas and XM. I had to say, on behalf of we XM Radio fans out there, that they are awesome for what they put on the air for us. Some of the highlights of the conversations:

1. XM Radio's numbers for listenership just came out and were good numbers. Important to the show, but it is another reminder to us all that Hockey is slowly growing in importance. (If only we could find a lake Placid moment for the U.S....).

2. I asked what he looks at when he comes to a game. One of the first comments was that he has sat all over the arena and believes up there on the 6th floor is the best vantage point because there is not anything that is obstructed. This was not the first time I heard this tonight. So those of you who rue the empty seat next to the glass from the upper deck should know the professionals like your vantage point. Reference the game, he said it depends. Sometimes he is there to see a particular player. When Columbus came into Toronto last, it was to see Steve Mason in goal. And sometimes it is to get an impression of overall team play.

3. We had some sidebars about the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers as he is a real Steelers fan. I had to admit I do not follow football as much anymore. I am an old, Tom Landry/Roger Staubach Cowboys fan and have not been as much of a follower since Jones came in, bought the team, and fired Coach Landry in the media before personally going to see him. Of note was the upcoming opening of the Cowboys new stadium which has a reported, $20M big screen in HD. What do you say to that, other than you want one in your own, private theater?

4. He pointed out how bad VANEK's performance for Buffalo was. After two periods, the $7M man had no SOG and only 7 minutes of ice time. Right after Boomer left - must have been within two minutes of playing time - VANEK's first SOG from the side of a sprawling Cujo was a goal. Drew Stafford seemed to be slow as well. Boomer will talk about them on air later on in the week.

5. His favorite segment of their shows is the one he does with Rob Higgins for the fantasy hockey hour on Fridays. I personally like catching the show as it provides insights into what is going on in my own pool.

6. I mentioned my favorite, out-of-the-box idea that intra-divisional games should be done by three's, half before New Year's and the other half to close the season. They should be played in three game sets, however, as a mini-series in order to give teams and fans a playoff atmosphere for weeks during the season. He said he noticed on rare occasions that they have put three games together, and it has made for interesting play.

7. We also had an interesting conversation about the validity of 45-second, flat-out shifts versus Phil Esposito's 75 percent power for two-minute shifts. Boomer said he actually did a lot of study into how the players train, eat and practice for the 45-second shift and that the game would be entirely different if you could somehow mandate that teams roll lines after every two minutes. It would make the rink 'bigger' if that was the case because the speed at which players move from point-to-point right now makes you either decide and move the puck faster, or be in conflict with another player because you were too slow. If players went at 75% speed, they would not cover the ice as well, making more space and time to observe, orient, decide, and act (that's right, military folks, the OODA Loop). Great observation!

Boomer has great insight into the game as anyone with all of his experience should. He also enjoys the off-season with a chance to recharge the batteries, much like a lot of the Hockey crowd does. Booms, it was my pleasure spending the game talking with you about a myriad of subjects. You are one of the great reasons to subscribe to XM!

The game ended 3-1 Buffalo, with the Sabres still alive for a playoff berth. As I picked up my notes, I glanced up at the Retired Number Banners to my front with such names as Mahovlich, Clark, Apps, Clancy, Broda and others staring back at me. Peeking between this awesome row of canvas are multiple Stanley Cup banners everyone fights to add to the rafters again. This place IS history.

The last post, the post-game drink with the guys, will be posted when I get home this evening. I have to pack and get to the airport. Sorry to keep you on a string, but I won't be leaving Toronto if I do not get moving.

More in a few hours...

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