Archive for December, 2017

Countdown to the 2018 NHL Winter Classic: 1 Day

As we approach the 10th Winter Classic, it’s best that we end this countdown with a countdown. I challenged myself to pick 9 of favorite moments from the 9 previous Winter Classics, but here’s the catch — I can pick only one moment from each game, so that all 9 games can be represented in this countdown.  So without further ado, here are my Prime 9 Favorite Winter Classic Moments.

9. 2011: Eric Fehr’s Breakaway on the Allegheny

The 2011 Winter Classic in Pittsburgh was a Saturday night showdown at Heinz Field as Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals took on Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins at the home of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers. It was a chippy game, but the man that made all the difference that night was Capitals forward Eric Fehr. Halfway through the third period, Fehr capitalized on a breakaway and gave the Caps insurance as they won that night, 3-1.

8: 2016: Mike Condon Goes Clutch

During the 2015-16 season, the Montreal Canadiens had to deal with playing without Carey Price for a majority of the season. Enter Holliston native and Princeton graduate Mike Condon. The first-year pro was between the pipes as Hockey’s greatest rivalry — the Canadiens and the Boston Bruins — was taken outdoors at the House that Tom Brady built — th home of the New England Patriots — Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium. The Habs steamrolled the B’s 5-1, but despite having a two-goal game from Habs teammate Paul Byron, Condon earned first star of the game honors, stopping 27 of 28 shots.

7. 2017: Welcome to the Tarasenk-show

This was a celebration 50 years in the making for St. Louis Blues fans. In the heart of Downtown St. Louis, in the current iteration of Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, where the Gateway Arch made a perfect backdrop for this clash between teams separated by 300 miles of Interstate 55. The Chicago Blackhawks entered their third Winter Classic appearance 0-2 looking for that elusive win in the NHL’s signature event. But the Blues would have none of it. In the span of 1:53 in the third period, Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice to give the Blues the lead for the rest of the game. A 4-1 win gave the majority of the 46,556 who attended the game a memory that will last a lifetime (or until the Blues finally win the Stanley Cup).

6. 2015: Brouwer Power

At the 2011 NHL Draft, The Chicago Blackhawks traded Troy Brouwer to the Washington Capitals for their first-round draft pick. Brouwer was a power winger that helped the Hawks end their 49-year Stanley Cup Championship drought back in 2010. When the Hawks and the Capitals met in the 2015 Winter Classic at Nationals Park, Brouwer drew a slashing penalty against Brandon Saad in the waning minutes of regulation time. With the game tied 2-2, this was probably the only chance the Capitals had to win the game. On the power play, Alex Ovechkin passed the puck to Brouwer’s stick. As Brouwer shot the puck towards Corey Crawford, his stick broke. Luckily, the shot went past Crawford and into the net, giving the Capitals their second win in Winter Classic, 3-2, in front of 42,832 fans.

5. 2009: Pavel Datsyuk’s Deke in the Wind

The 2009 Winter Classic at Chicago’s Wrigley Field officially affirmed the Classic as an annual New Year’s Day tradition and the NHL’s signature event. The Chicago Blackhawks came out of the gate leading 3-1 after 20 minutes against their long-time rival, the defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings. But the Red Wings took control in the second period, tying the game at 3-3 thanks to two goals by Jiri Hudler. With less than three minutes to go in the second, Pavel Datsyuk was streaking down the ice, much like the ground ball that Kris Bryant threw to Anthony Rizzo to win the World Series 7 years later. Datsyuk deked two Hawks players and scored to give the Red Wings a 4-3 lead; a lead that they would not relinquish for the rest of the afternoon.

4. 2014: The Biggest Game at The Big House

The Detroit Red Wings would get their chance of hosting the Winter Classic in 2013, but thanks to the lockout that shortened the 2012-13 season, their Winter Classic occurred one year front of a NHL-record crowd of 105,491 at The Big House — Michigan Stadium, the place where Fritz Crisler, Fielding Yost, and Bo Schembechler turned Michigan Wolverine football into the powerhouse program it is today, The Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs met in a Original Six showdown in the snow. The game remained close for a majority of the time. The score was 2-2 at the end of regulation time. Overtime solved nothing. The game had to be decided in a shootout. Pavel Datsyuk and Joffrey Lupul each scored in the second round. After Jonathan Bernier stopped Tomas Tatar in the third round, Tyler Bozak had a chance to win the Winter Classic for the Leafs. With the game on his stick, Bozak shot one past Jimmy Howard to give the Leafs the win in the Winter Classic.

3: 2010: Marco Sturm’s Overtime Winner at Fenway

The 2010 Winter Classic at Boston’s Fenway Park was a thriller between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Boston Bruins. It was a Classic of firsts: the first fight at a Winter Classic occurred when Shawn Thornton and Dan Carcillo traded blows. The Flyers’ Danny Syvret scored his first career NHL goal. And in the waning moments of the third period, Mark Recchi tied the game at 1-1. The game would go to overtime, when Marco Sturm deflected in a shot from Patrice Bergeron past Michael Leighton to give the Bruins a 2-1 win in overtime — the only Winter Classic that had an overtime winner (to this point).

2. 2012: Henrik Lundqvist’s Penalty Shot Save

The 2012 Winter Classic was a battle between Broadway and Broad Street as the New York Rangers took on the Philadelphia Flyers at the home of the Philadelphia Phillies, Citizens Bank Park. In the final minute of regulation, the Flyers were trailing 3-2 and had the extra attacker on when playing 4-on-4. During a net-mouth scramble, Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh closed his hand on the puck in the crease to prevent the equalizer from being scored. By rule, the Flyers we’re awarded a penalty shot with 19.6 seconds left to go in the game. Peter Laviolette sent out Daniel Briere to take the Penalty Shot. The shot would ensure either overtime or a Rangers win. Briere shot the puck five-hole, but Henrik Lundqvist made the save of all saves, and preserved the 3-2 win for the Blueshirts.

1. 2008: Sidney Crosby’s Shootout Winner

If Bobby Orr scoring the Stanley Cup-clinching goal in 1970 was considered one of the most iconic images of the NHL pre-2004-05 lockout, Sidney Crosby scoring the shootout winner in the inaugural Winter Classic at Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium (now called New Eta Field) is considered one of the most iconic image of the NHL post-2004-05 lockout. The 2008 Winter Classic was the first regular-season NHL outdoor game held in the United States, and Buffalo was selected as the host venue because of it’s climate during the winter. Their opponent, the Pittsburgh Penguins, featured THE face of the new NHL. 20-year-old Sidney Crosby was coming off of an amazing sophomore season, where he won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer, the Lester B. Pearson Award and the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player by both the NHL Players Association and the Professional Hockey Writers Association. In the game, the Penguins’ Colby Armstrong scored the first goal 20 seconds into the game. Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell tied the game 90 seconds into the second period. The game would remain deadlocked heading into overtime. The game would eventually be decided in a shootout. Ales Kotalik gave the Sabres the lead after Round 1, but Penguins defenseman Kris Letang tied the shootout in Round 2. After Maxim Afinogenov failed to score in Round 3 of the shootout, Sidney Crosby had a chance to win the inaugural Winter Classic. With snow falling from the sky, Crosby shot the puck five-hole past Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller to give the Penguins the win in the inaugural Winter Classic.

Well, that concludes this year’s countdown to the Winter Classic. I wish everyone a happy, safe, and a memorable 2018. Happy New Year, and we’ll do this again in 2019!


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Coach’s Corner Rewind: December 30, 2017

If you missed Hockey Night in Canada last night, here’s the last Coach’s Corner of the calendar year 2017.

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Countdown to the 2018 NHL Winter Classic: 2 Days

Part 4: Meet the Mets

Meet the Mets

Meet the Mets

Step right up and greet the Mets

Bring your kiddies

Bring your wife

Guaranteed to have the time of your life

Because the Mets are really sockin’ the ball

Knocking those home runs over the wall

East side, West side, everybody’s coming down

To meet the M-E-T-S Mets of New York town

Meet the Mets has been the anthem for New York Mets baseball since day one. But the song was penned one year before the Mets came into existence. Written by Ruth Roberts and Bill Katz, who also wrote “It’s a Beautiful Day for a Ballgame” for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1960, Meet the Mets beat out 18 other entries to become the Mets team song.

It was listening to this song that made current New York Mets Radio play-by-play announcer (and former Islanders and Rangers announcer) Howie Rose got the influence to land his dream job.

Rose said to The New York Times in an article in 2011 after Roberts died at the age of 84, “I’d always heard it as background music because it signaled that the game was about to begin. But that day, when she started playing it, I got an undeniable rush, you know, goose bumps. And all of a sudden, it sounded serious, and the realization hit: all those days when a day like this was a far-fetched dream led up to this moment. Oh my God, they’re coming out of the dugout to win a pennant today (in 1969). I literally feel and see 50 years of baseball.”

This song was used for a This is SportsCenter commercial starting Mr. Met, Mrs. Met, and their family on a drive home from a game.

Stay tuned for the final part of the countdown tomorrow. I promise you you won’t miss it!


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Countdown to the 2018 NHL Winter Classic: 3 Days

Part 3: The Big Apple

During Part 2, I explained how Citi Field came into being. But I left out one major exception — the symbol of the Mets that has been used since 1980.

During the 1980 season, to help improve the atmosphere at Shea Stadium, the Home Run Apple was introduced. The idea of future Mets general manager Al Harazin, the apple was a 9-foot-tall, 582-pound hunk of plaster covered in metal and electric wiring that was painted red. It had the Mets logo on the front and a jaunty green stem poking out its top. The apple sat beyond the center-field fence at Shea, nestled in a 10-foot-tall black plywood top hat. When the Apple popped up, some lights on the logo would flash. Originally on the top hat, the words “Mets Magic” was lit up. It was all a bust during that 1980 season as the Joe Torre-managed team only won 67 games and finished 5th in the NL East.

But the time Citi Field was about to open in 2009, Mets management decided not to bring the Home Run Apple to their new ballpark. However, Mets fans demanded to see a Home Run Apple at Citi Field. The new Apple, which is double the size of the original Apple, measures 16½ feet tall and is 18 feet in diameter. The outer fiberglass shell of the apple weighs 4,800 pounds, and its cantilevered hydraulic frame, weighs 9,000 pounds. All that’s needed to raise the Apple from its housing in center field is the turn of a key and a push of a button from inside the scoreboard operations room.

The original Home Run Apple now proudly sits propped up in Mets Plaza just in front of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda for all to see.


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Countdown to the 2018 NHL Winter Classic: 4 Days

Part 2: Bringing Citi Field to Life

During Part 1, I explained how the area known as Flushing Meadows—Corona Park came into existence. This part talks about how the venue of the Winter Classic, Citi Field came into existence. By the end of Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s tenure in 2001, a lot of money was saved to ensure that both the New York Yankees and the New York Mets would have new ballparks by the year 2009. While Yankee Stadium cost $2.3 Million to build, Citi Field cost a mere $610 Million to build, which included a lease to keep the Mets in New York until 2049. The new home of the Mets was heavily influenced by the two former homes of New York’s National League teams. The all-green seating is from the Polo Grounds, the home of the New York Giants and the first home of the Mets. The exterior is reminiscent of Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The two designs were something Mets owner Fred Wilpon wanted to have when Citi Field was being designed. As you walk towards the front entrance, you enter the ballpark through the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, named after the first player of color to play in the Major Leagues. The rotunda was formally dedicated on April 15, 2009, the 62nd anniversary of when Robinson broke the color barrier. The 160-foot rotunda features a large #42 sculpture and engravings and images of the 9 values of life: Courage, Excellence, Persistence, Justice, Teamwork, Commitment, Citizenship, Determination and Integrity, which can be summarized in his most famous saying: “A life is not important, except in the impact it has on other lives”, which is engraved on the top ring of the rotunda. The Orange Foul Poles came over from Shea Stadium, and the skyline that was sitting atop The Shea Stadium scoreboard now rests atop The Shake Shack at Taste of the City in center field. Other influences of New York are located through the ballpark. The Shea Bridge, located in right-center field, is based on the Hell Gate Bridge, which connect Queens and The Bronx. The bridge also connects the long lineage of New York’s National League team, from the Giants and Dodgers to the Mets.

When Citi Field opened, it was notorious for being a pitchers’ park, which was one of the unique quirks about Shea Stadium. To help make the ballpark more friendly to hitters, based on a suggestion from Mets general manager Sandy Anderson, the fences were moved in prior to the 2012 season, reducing the left field wall from 16 feet to 8, and moving the right center field distance from 415 feet to 390. When comparing Park Factor for home runs — the rate of stats at home vs. the rate of stats on the road in which a rate higher than 1.000 favors the hitter — Citi Field had a Park Factor for Home Runs at 1.057, which was the 12th highest in the Majors. That season saw only 130 home runs hit out of Citi Field. Last season, Citi Field’s Park Factor for Home Runs was .798; the third lowest in the Majors. There was 210 home runs hit out of Citi field, a 61% increase from season 1 in 2009 to season 9 in 2017.

Citi Field has hosted a bunch of events in its first 9 years. The 2013 MLB All-Star Game, the 2015 World Series, concerts from Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga, and even a MLS Playoff match when NYCFC played Columbus Crew SC, because their normal home field, Yankee Stadium, was being used during the 2017 American League Championship Series.


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Countdown to the 2018 NHL Winter Classic: 5 Days

This is the first of a 5-part series about the upcoming NHL Winter Classic.

This is the valley of ashes — a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.

These are the words F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about the Corona Ash Dumps, the land in which Flushing Meadows— Corona Park would be built upon for the 1939 World’s Fair. During nearly 30 years of filling the marshland neat the Flushing Creek with the ash of incinerated trash, around 50 million cubic yards of ash and waste were dumped onto the site, creating black mounds that were as high as 100 feet and were 30 feet in thickness. Why do this? Michael Degnon, the contractor of the Williamsburg Bridge and the Steinway Tunnel (for which the 7 trains run on) believed the land was “all but worthless”. If you lived near the dumps at the time, it was an eyesore, it smelled bad, and there was a large infestation of rodents. mosquitoes, and horse manure. In 1916, the dumps were the cause of a polio outbreak in the area. Enter Robert Moses, the legendary former commissioner of New York State Parks. He had the vision of taking the ash dumps and turning it into a park, bigger than Central Park in Manhattan. In 1934, the City of New York took control of the Corona Ash Dumps and began planning to turn the site into a place to welcome the world in 1939. Construction began in 1936, and the eyesore of black mounds swathed in the foul odor of waste were beginning to be leveled. Four highways were built to bisect the site: the Van Wyck Expressway, the Long Island Expressway, and the Grand Central Parkway. This reclamation of a dump site and turning it into a public park also occurred in Brooklyn with both Marine Park Spring Meadow Park and Ferry Point Park in The Bronx.

Only one building remains from the 1939 World’s Fair: the New York City Building, which is now The Queens Museum. The rest of the park was refurbished for the 1964 World’s Fair. The Unisphere stands where the Trylon and Perisphere once stood and a couple of new permanent buildings were constructed for the 1964 Fair. The New York State Pavilion, which is now a symbol of urban decay in New York, and a multipurpose stadium that would serve as the home of both New York’s new National League team, the Mets and New York’s American Football League team, the Jets. Shea Stadium was the home to both teams until 1984, when Jets owner Leon Hess moved his team to the Meadowlands in New Jersey because Mayor of New York Ed Koch did not want to pay more money to expand Shea Stadium. The Mets would be the lone tenant of Shea Stadium until 2008, when a new modern-day ballpark would be constructed next to Shea, and this ballpark would not just honor Shea, but the overall design would evoke a ballpark from the other borough, Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field.

To be continued…


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Coach’s Corner Rewind: December 23, 2017

Merry Christmas, everybody! If you didn’t see the last Coach’s Corner Saturday night, this is my Christmas present to you!


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