Yearly Archives: 2007

San Jose Mercury News – Sharks take early lead, hold off Canucks

San Jose Mercury News – Sharks take early lead, hold off Canucks:

“Last night was the best I felt yet,” Roenick said after Friday’s practice of his 9:47 on the ice against Edmonton. “My body’s actually really good. The hands are what have to come. It’s controlling the puck and making moves and holding onto it.”

Roenick took note of the fact he was on a line with two of the speedier Sharks.

“It’s kind of ironic how the oldest guy is on the fastest line. I don’t know where they get those jet-pack skates yet. I haven’t found them. I’ve just the old-time skates that weigh three pounds each.”

Roenick sure seems to have come into camp with the right work ethic and attitude. He’s definitely winning me over, not just because he’s played pretty well (unlike the game I saw in pre-season), but because he’s handling it with, well, the classic and good side of Roenick. After scoring his two goals, he was interviewed on TV by Drew, who more or less asked “two goals? What about that?”

To which Roenick replied “Blind squirrels and acorns”.

So far, the sharks actually look pretty good, and Roenick may make it tough to get Setoguchi back in the lineup when healthy. I didn’t expect that. I’m not going to complain.

One thing I’m enjoying — Thornton said he was going to shoot more this season, and he is. His goal last night is a classic of this; you could see the Canucks settle back and protect the pass a bit, leaving him a lane to shoot, assuming he was going to dish it off. He lasered it off the post an in; Luongo had no chance (he really had no chance on all three goals, IMHO). Teams are going to have to figure this one out and stop cheating on the pass — and when they do, expect Cheechoo’s goal numbers to take off, also.

I’m not exactly sure how you can defend someone who can shoot that accurately if you give him a little time, and pass as well as he does if you try to get in his face and pressure. I’m going to enjoy watching teams try.

OH, and sorry, Alanah. Really.


Bettman and the “Nashville problem” (hint: it’s not)


n fact, Brunt may have published a primer on Tuesday for the Commissioner to study, featuring a couple of troubling developments for the league bureaucracy to examine and sort out. Some percolating issues, which try as he might, don’t appear to be on the verge of going away any time shortly.

In his Globe and Mail column on Tuesday, Brunt examined the state of the league as they prepare to drop the puck on another chase for Lord Stanley’s mug. His findings show that the league is doing quite well in Canada, where the suddenly skyrocketing loonie is making for a cash flow bonus that provides for more dollars in the Canadian franchise treasuries, while the southern teams begin to feel the pain.

Included in his column on Tuesday were a couple of interesting brush fires that have flared up this week for the league to address. The on again/off again saga of the Nashville Predators sale seems to have moved into the death throes again this week. As the new council in the Nashville area, has not smiled beneficially on some of the “changes” that the Preds would like to make to such things a lease arrangements and other financial subsidies that the city is underwriting to keep the Preds part of the Nashville scene.

Brunt also examined the washing of some dirty laundry heading into opening night, examining a Larry Brooks story for the New York Post, which reported that Madison Square Garden chief executive officer James Dolan has been busy blasting the league office for incompetent handling of the NHL brand. Dolan who seems to enjoy controversial roles these days, took time out from the legal woes that have befallen MSG to drop a little diversionary bomb at the doorstep of Gary Bettman.

Dolan believes the Rangers do a far better job selling their product in all of its permutations than the league ever could. Said Doolan, “we believe that the league continues to squander opportunities to improve our business and solidify and grow our fan base.” He pulled out some interesting numbers to back his case, recounting how some 93 per cent of the NHL overall revenue (up from 91 per cent before the lockout) is generated by the teams, with only 7 per cent generated by the league.

In effect, he’s probably wondering what the NHL office is doing to not only justify its existence to improve the game on a wider agenda.

(part one of a long piece on these two issues facing Bettman — Nashville and the MSG lawsuit…. Stay tuned for part 2)

Over in baseball-land, there have been fans calling for Selig’s head since he was named commissioner; baseball has, much to their dismay, simply ignored them and continued to follow Selig, and has shown really nice financial numbers and seems to be doing well. Challenges? Yes, such as the steroid issue — but all in all, baseball’s doing pretty well (and I say that as a “not a Selig fan” person).

Which is a good reminder who the Commissioner works for. Fay Vincent’s failing was that he actually thought he represented the fans, and his real bosses wouldn’t put up with it forever.

Ditto Bettman. But in this case, it’s not so clear how his support with the bosses is going. but I felt I had to point out right up front that the commissioner isn’t working for the fans, unless doing things for the fans fits the larger agenda. They never have, never will.

Now, having said that… To me, the Nashville “problem” isn’t. Bettman has made his position clear on this up front, and it’s the same position he’s had with other teams (Pittsburgh, and for those with shorter memories, Edmonton during the worst of the exchange rate crisis) that were at risk of moving. The league position is simple: you do whatever you can to keep a team from moving, until it’s clear it’s not going to work. At that point, you figure out where to move the team.

the “new ownership problem” is really not Bettman’s problem. It’s Leopold, the owner of Nashville. Let’s not forget that Leopold negotiated with Balsillie in secret, hiding it from the league until there was an agreement in place. Why? Because both sides knew the league wouldn’t support what they intended to do, which was move it to Hamilton, and Balsillie wanted to get the PR machine going to try to force Bettman’s hand. Didn’t work.

Now, Leopold’s trying to work out a deal with a local “white knight” group (which actually includes a major backer of the Kansas City group — that should have told you up-front how strong the Nashville group’s finances were, folks). For those with short memory, we’ve done this before, in a town called Winnipeg. We went through the love/hate live/die cycle with the Jets, with a local group coming in to buy and “save” the team, going to government for help in making it financially viable, and finding out, ultimately, that it wasn’t going to happen.

Now, the same is happening in Nashville. And we’re now seeing the government say “well, maybe not”. That particular game of chicken isn’t over, but it looks really unlikely that the prospective owners will get what they want. I expect the deal to fall apart.

None of this is really Bettman’s fault, much as the Canadian press loves to pillory him (THAT is an essay for another time; I’m getting pretty damn tired of the Canadian press whining about hockey in America and ripping on Bettman for his sin of — gasp — not being Canadian. Pretty much everything else about why they hate him falls from that fact, folks).

This is business. It’s how these things work. Bettman is letting the people of Nashville decide if they (a) want the Predators, and (b) are willing to pay full price to keep them. Don’t forget: Leopold’s been subsidizing that team heavily since inception; the region’s gotten the team at a discount (not unprecedented, the Sharks have lost some money every season also — it comes down to how much and whether the ownership is willing and able to do it). Now, we’re trying to find out if the Predators are viable in the town, and whether fans will support them at a ticket price that’s going to support the team. Neither, frankly, seems to be true.

What you end up with once this process is done (painful for fans, but typical for business situations, actually. and let’s not forget, this is a business based on the game of hockey), you’ll have a lame duck team in Nashville, and no fight by the region to keep them. They were given their best shot, fair and square, and it didn’t work. To a good degree, all of this is a vaccination against lawsuits and all of the legal pain a team move might cause — because Leopold and the league can point and say “we tried!” — and they did. Balsillie would have had a much harder time of it, by the way, but was willing to simply throw money, guns and lawyers at it to make it work, and be damned with the PR. the NHL isn’t quite so — straightforward.

Now, officially, Bettman has no “plan B”, he’s working on saving the team for Nashville, as he did in Edmonton, as they tried (and failed) in Winnipeg and Quebec, due mostly to currency exchange problems. Unofficially, I’ll bet the Kansas City move is already being talked about — informally.

The rest is just letting the process finish out, which, since lawyers and contracts and PR and governments are all involved, has to happen. Fan response in Nashville seems to be hovering around “well, it was fun while it lasted”, so I expect this is the last year for Nashville in Nashville.

I’m not surprised. If you look at how Winnipeg went down, it was a very similar way. White knights riding in on armored horses, only to, well, have to think about it once they see the size of the dragon. Public displays of loyalty by fans, drives to buy tickets. Lots of theater — but theater doesn’t change the financial reality, and eventually the real part happens when the people who write the checks (the current owner, new prospective owners, arena and local governmetns) sit down to talk money. And frankly, you probably could have guessed this — if Leopold could have found a way to make this work, he would have. And didn’t. He’s not a bad owner. In fact, he’s one hell of an owner and the NHL really is going to lose a good one when he moves on.

So nobody should be surprised that since he didn’t get it done, nobody else is going to, either. And Bettman has very little role in all of this, except to take the criticism of Canadian journalists and of bloggers looking for someone to blame. But then, that’s his job, to take the bullet for the board of governors while they pull the primary strings.

continued in part 2…..

2007-08 NHL season predictions…

Time for me to make a fool of myself, although we won’t have firm evidence for at least a few weeks…. Time for me to predict the season.

First, the western conference:

None of last year’s playoff teams really got worse, and this is going to make the west a tough conference again. I’m predicting 95 points to make the playoffs at all.

Division winners:

Central: Detroit (and most points in the west, and president’s trophy)
Pacific: San Jose (2nd seed)
Northwest: Vancouver (third seed)

is it possible for only one team in the central to make the playoffs? Probably not. St. Louis is better, but not a playoff team. Chicago is better, too, but not this year. Nashville, I worry that the ownership issues will get in the way. And I’m not convinced Columbus is good. But changes are, one other team will put it together and make a late spot. Since I’m rooting ofr them, I’ll choose the Blues in 8th.

4th seed: Anaheim
5th: Dallas
6th: Colorado
7th: Los Angeles
8th: St. Louis

Right now, who comes out of the west is a pick’em among Detroit, San Jose, and Anaheim. It depends entirely on who gets lucky and who stays healthy and who avoids the traps each team has:

Detroit: will hasek stay healthy? If not….

San jose: will they work out the consistency problems? Will Navokov perform to expectations? Will Cheechoo bounce back?

Anaheim: Guigiere? and when will Niedermeyer come back? Selanne too, probably.

I have an issue about players who sit out until mid-season or later and then roll in for the playoffs; Forsberg made it work, and I expect Niedermeyer will do something similar. If Selanne doesn’t retire, he’ll come back later, too; I’m guessing both will rejoin Anaheim at some point, or they’d have formally hung it up. And they’ll be fresh for the playoffs, and taht’s scary.

Now, I don’t think this is fair for the fans or the game, but it’s legal, and if you’re good enough, you obviously can get away with it. I hope the practice doesn’t expand, but you can see advantages for teams, too — salary cap savings and better play in the playoffs when others are tired. Now, should this be changed? Can it? I think it’s something the league needs to think about and monitor. I’m torn, personally. maybe there’s some date beyond which if you aren’t on the roster, you have to clear waivers to join in? Or maybe if a team and player can actually pull this off, we should congratulate them.

but I don’t think the fans are getting a fair shake. And I worry we’ll start seeing older, key players turn this into the hockey equivalent of the designated hitter. And how do you explain it to that player who spent four months busting his butt for the team, to be dropped from the lineup when the stud decides he’s ready to play?

urgh. It’s always something…

Anyway, eastern conference:

Atlantic: Pittsburgh
Northeast: Ottawa (2nd)
Southeast: Washington (3rd)

again, it turns into a crapshoot quickly. I like what the capitals have done — and they play in a pretty weak conference. It’ll help, but they’ll be a lot better, too. No gimmee.

I’m guessing 90 points to make the playoffs.

4th seed: Buffalo — they won’t suck as much as some buffalo fans worry.
5th seed: NY Rangers
6th seed: New Jersey
7th seed: Boston
8th seed: Carolina

I like the Senators to come out of the east this year, personally. But Ottawa or the Rangers might make it intersting. I keep waiting for Martin Brodeur to get hurt or get human, but it may not matter, the rest of the team isn’t as impressive as it has been.

And right now, if I had to bet, I’d bet the Sharks to take the cup. It’s what I do. But there are easily six teams that can take it depending on luck and happenstance, and I wouldn’t be disappointed. Much.

Team looking forward to full-strength Rivet

San Jose Mercury News – Team looking forward to full-strength Rivet:

His illness was mentioned in passing after he was traded to the Sharks in February because the illness had forced him to miss his last nine games with the Montreal Canadiens.

But once he got to San Jose? Rivet played and the assumption was he had recovered.

Not so.

“I was never healthy, not in the slightest,” Rivet said. “As time went on, it just got a little worse and worse. The energy level and strength wasn’t there. It took a lot out of me.”

Rivet, a steadying influence on a young defense, still showed the Sharks enough to be rewarded with a four-year, $14 million contract. Now that he has finally gotten past the sickness, Rivet is eager to demonstrate his full capabilities.

“When I first got here, I jumped right into the fire and tried to do the best I could to help the team compete,” Rivet said. “But now I feel great and I’m looking forward to starting the season healthy.”

Rivet is a vocal, assertive presence on the ice – a good thing for the Sharks, who are still youthful on defense with
regulars such as Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Christian Ehrhoff and Matt Carle.

I seem to be the only person not worried about the Sharks blueline this year. Not taking anything away from Scott Hannan, but in the context of the Sharks, replacing him with Rivet is an upgrade.

No, Rivet is not as strong defensively but the Sharks weakness on the defense last season, and in past seasons, was the lack of offense from the blueline, to the point that Patrick Marleau spent power play time there last year.

I will happily give up some “stay at home” minutes for an upgraded power play, and that’s what we’ve done. Hannan and McLaren play very similar styles, solid shut-down guys. Given the rest of our talent on the blueline, we really didn’t need both; McLaren brings more size and physical play, but I won’t call him the “better” guy — very closely matched, actually.

Rivet should also be a useful advisor to the kids on how to grow their offensive potential — no offense to Robb Zettler or anyone else on the Sharks, but until you get to Doug Wilson himself, it’s hard to find someone in the organization who knows how to score from the blueline to coach the kids — and I think that’s shown in past season. Rivet is going to be a help for guys like Carle and Vlasic.

With Davison as the 6th defenseman, I think we’ll be fine. I can think of a lot of teams wishing they were worried about someone like Davison being their 6th Dman; as long as Vlasic and Carle play decently, we’ll be fine. If they don’t, Hannan wouldn’t be the solution anyway.

throw in Doug Murray as a 7th guy, and wild card Sandis “Sandis! No!” Ozolinsh — who knows what’s going to happen there, but make him your 8th guy and go for a ride.. That’s not a bad group to open the season with, and if Davison and Murray don’t prove up to the task the Sharks have cap space to go get someone to fill in the gap.

The big knock on both: foot speed, but Davison makes up for it with some ability to predict the play, and Murray makes up for it with an immense physical presence — don’t ever get near him with your head down, not even in a restaurant). Either one could be a 12 minute a night guy, and I noticed the Sharks working with Davison on penalty kill in pre-season. If the Sharks helped him gain half a step, he’ll be fine.

I know some fans argued the sharks needed to get someone in the off-season (I was a bit surprised they didn’t go for Souray, but then, lots of teams didn’t, and he signed later than expected, for less than expected, with an unexpected team, so something seems to have scared teams off that the press didn’t know about (wow. unprecedented). Maybe his agent had bad breath or something…). That goes against the general philosophy of the Sharks, though, which is to grow from within. Your prospects need to know they have a legitimate chance to make the team, and you don’t do that if you’re constantly going over them by bringing in outsiders to fill the roster.

So instead, if you have someone you think can do it — let them play, but maintain the ability to be flexible based on how things work out. Davison and Murray both have done the black aces thing, without complaint, without whining. Reward them and see what happens. If it works, great. If not, the Sharks have options — AND it means everyone down in Worchester hoping to make the team will feel they have a real chance to do so, and that makes them better, more motivated players. Compare that to a team like the Leafs, where prospects pretty much can guess their best shot at an NHL job is as part of a trade to another team…

So for me, I’m headed into the season very happy. Now, all the Sharks need to do is execute to potential and stay healthy…

update: I realize I wrote the above while completely forgetting about Alexei Semenov. He’s starting the season on the IR with a funky back, but that’s another piece to the depth puzzle that gives the Sharks more options.. (hat tip: Sharkspage)

And the sharks exit the preseason undefeated…

and nobody really cares. which is great.

First chance to see the team in person — once again, I miss most of training camp (only about 2 hours on the first day, before we headed out of town to Oregon) and most of the pre-season games. One thing I always tried to do at Apple was schedule some flex time so I could visit training camp, and one thing that always happened was something that came up and kept me from going. It became sort of a running joke after a while — so what do I do? Two years in a row, I schedule my own conflicts instead. go figure…

Doesn’t really matter.

The Sharks looked pretty good. They more or less manhandled the Flames, until they decided to ramp it down and coast. the game wasn’t nearly as close as the stats might indicate, the Sharks got bored as much as anything.

They did look pretty good to me overall, though. Setoguchi saw limited time, but impressed. Roenick didn’t see limited time, and looks, well, old and slow, and took a number of “old and slow” penalties. But then, Mark Smith, who signed in Calgary just before the game and is basically the roster spot that went to Roenick, didn’t impress, either.

I would not want to have been wearing a flames jersey within sight of Keenan after that performance.

Davison looks to be the 6th defenseman for now, with Murray 7th. I expect once Sandis is released from substance abuse, he’ll be signed to some minimal contract as an 8th Dman and we’ll see what happens. It may be a pity signing, or simply the Sharks giving an old friend a chance — but what’s wrong with that? Don’t forget that Sandis was Doug wilson’s partner in the first season before Sandis hurt his knee, and so there’s a lot of “more than pure hockey” going on here. And the Sharks have a soft spot for Sandis, and have a history of reclamation projects, both well-known and not so. Some worked out okay, some (Link Gaetz) didn’t, and some (Brant Mhyres, anyone?) were, well, reclamation projects.

Sandis’s problems started with the Sharks, a kid a bit too young, with too many responsibilities, acclimation problems, a bit shy and nerdy, frankly. He also was sort of a real-life lab experiement that helped the Sharks understand what it took to bring in european talent successfully for both the player and the team, and the team has strongly benefitted from that; perhaps just for that reason, the Sharks will give Sandis a shot, giving both sides some closure. And Sandis is still well-loved in San Jose.

(Sandis, by the way, has a really funky record on his resume: he scored the first goal in San Francisco Spiders history, as he was holding out at the time and signed a deal with the IHL team; then he went off and rejoined the Sharks, and if I remember properly, THEN went and scored the first goal of the season for San Jose, too…)

I’m probably the only person in the universe NOT particularly worried about San Jose’s defense. Yes, we lost Hannan, but to me, Hannan and McLaren were very similar players, and the entire defensive corps was way too “stay at home”; swapping out Hannan for Rivet, which is effectively what we did, improves the power play a LOT and increases the blueline offensive capability. Yes, we lose some defensive-defense, but we have plenty to spare, I think.

And Rivet can teach Carle and Plasic how to play as an offensive defenseman, a benefit we need. Honestly, Robb Zettler teaching offensive defense? Not gonna happen…

I think Davison and Murray as a time-sharing combo is a perfectly acceptable 6th dman. As long as Vlasic doesn’t have a bad year, we’ll be fine. And if Sandis brings something to the table, that’s a benefit. But I’m not sure I want Sandis to teach the kids how to play…

I will admit — I really like the new home jersey, and I wasn’t sure I would. I still am not sure about the logo redo (wasn’t broken, why fix it?) but it’s no worse than the old one, merely different. It’ll probably grow on me. But the epaulets instead of those black underarms? That looks pretty nice, actually, and I thought the orange highlights addded to the look, didn’t clutter it. So it gets a thumbs up for me.

Other changes in the arena — the new video board absolutely rocks. Absolutely. well done. As someone sitting near me said last night, “I found myself watching the board, even when the Sharks were in our end of the ice!” True enough, and we’re three rows off the glass. THAT good. A nice thing is that it’s a purely software/video scoreboard now, so it’s got a lot more flexibility for different events.

And they finally redid the sound system, which has sucked since the building opened. We can actually — god help us — hear what is being said over the PA in section 127 now, unmuffled and without legibility problems. Well done. So THAT is what Joe Eich sounds like…

They also replaced the boards a wrap-around system similar to those seen in newer building (gah, that building’s over a decade old; I remmber it as a hole in the ground); The effect is pretty nice.

And a minor thing I noticed — they’ve retuned the lights. In previous years, some of the lights were turned off for hockey games because they caused bad shadows or glare; everything got re-aimed and now all of them are used in games; it makes it brighter in there (about an F/stop, I’m guessing); add in the light from the boards (it’s no longer dark, even with the lights off) and it’s a much brighter building.

One thing the sharks didn’t do (oh well) was theatrical lighting like GM place does. If you want to know why that’s a nice thing to have? just think about the 20 minute delay before the first game in London…. Shuttered lights avoid that but allow you to dim them for effect, something vancouver uses to good impact.

And now it’s time to drop the puck!

first week back…

Man, it’s already wednesday, and I’m still unpacking. Had an interview yesterday, which I felt went well — I’ve had some real dog interviews for some reason, and I haven’t been happy with how I’ve been handling them, but this one I thought was more up to my expectations for myself. I think I’m finally hitting that point where I’m ready and interested in going back to work, and that may be part of it. We’ll see.

Later today, I got introduced to one of these mythical stealth startups through a friend, and for some reason they want my thoughts on the thingie they’re building — and I’m horribly curious about it because it sounds like a fascinating new technology. Not an interview, it’s really more feedback on their plans. Should be fun, and that’s the last I’ll talk about it because as far as I’m concerned, it’s an NDA thing, even though we haven’t discussed that. Won’t even mention the market segment right now. But if they’re doing what they seem to be doing, it’s going to make life interesting down the road.

And another interview tomorrow, which I’m looking forward to; an other really interesting opportunity. And I came back and poked at a couple of other companies and we’ll see if anyone pokes back. And I have some work to do on the technical review, and I need to get that done this week…

Of course it’s digging out time. Even with good and reliable wifi in the hotels (getting easier and easier), I made a conscious decision to sort of go darkish and actually take the vacation.

Took about 1000 photos over nine days and 2300 miles driven. Fall arrived in Portland at about the same time we did, so we hit a bit of rain, but nothing anyone who likes Portland is going to notice. We spent the grey and rainy day driving up the Gorge and visiting some of the falls, then out to the Dalles, and inland and back through the Hood area. Absolutely-freaking-gorgeous. Some shopping and the ritual trip to Powell’s on day 2, plus stops at Penzey’s Spices and Stash Tea, and we were happy campers.

We actually, after having set things up to stay near the Tri-max, didn’t use it, we limited downtown to Powell’s and drove in. But we did a fair amount of exploring down in Hillsboro and also in Tigard and Lake Oswego. Some nice stuff going on up there. As we drove past Orenco Station the first time, Laurie noted “hey! they’re building a new false old downtown!”

which is true, very similar in concept to our Santana Row, and very nice, actually. I like the mixed use retail areas when they’re done well, and this one (which also, for those in the Bay Area, has some extended housing areas like Rivermark does in Santa Clara) seems pretty nice. It also had a New Seasons market in it, which frankly, for all we talk about the bay area being such a foodie region, points out just how pitifully bad out supermarket setup is around here…

Then it was off to Astoria (actually, Seaside), where we based for a couple of days, and we headed up to Long Beach and Cape Disappointment for some birding and photography, stopped by Cellar on 10th and ended up having a nice long chat and leaving with 15 bottles of good NorthWest grape stuff, dinner at Baked Alaska (cemented itself as my favorite spot on the coast), but also a rather nice italian meal and Guidos and Vito’s downtown seaside. You gotta love an italian place that puts up a “no, we do NOT have pizza on the menu” sign! (grin)

Then a couple of nights in Newport, dinners at Las Cabanas (really nice Mexican, especially for Oregon) and a new place (for us) call Szabos, which can best be described as a roadhouse — a bar with tables and TVs with the USC game on it, but the food was far from an afterthought; we watched as the locals piled in (almost always a good sign), and I had some of the best damn fish and chips I’ve had in years.

We decided not to visit the aquarium, in favor of exploring — up Yaquina bay to Toledo, south to Seal Rock, north to Boiler bay; a good chunk of time up at Yaquina head, where the wind was so fierce it made my eyes water despite having glasses on AND binoculars covering them.

Birding was pretty quiet. Yaquina Head was as usual busiest, with Brandt’s cormorants nesting, some marbled murrelets, a non-breeding (white) pigeon guillemot that confused the hell out of me for a while, a couple of common loons, and the normal gulls, and over 100 surf scoters. Up in Yaquina bay I found a mew gull in among a flock of “usual suspect” gulls, and a young hooded merganser — pretty much the only duck of the trip other than a couple of small groups of mallards. Lots of stuff has migrated out; only saw two common murres, even up around Point Disappointment where they nest, but no shorebirds — the summer residents were gone, the winter ones haven’t arrived yet, even at shorebird strongpoints like seal rock.

No whales. Word was they were up around depoe bay, but we didn’t see them this trip.

Down at seal rock, I spent some time with a nice lady who came down to seal rock expecting, well, seals. And there were some — we found five or six in the water — but none actually on shore, and I could never get her to see them in the water using the binoculars, so I finally hauled out the spotting scope so I could set it up and aim it for her; that worked out great, because once I showed her what to expect, she was able to find some of the others on her own. At the same time, the local song and savannah sparrows were laughing at me and running every time I tried to get a look at them, and there wasn’t a shorebird in the entire beach area. ohwell…

As I get the photos posted, I’ll talk more about stuff. But for now, gotta go fight the bermuda grass again…

the end of the Bonds era.

San Jose Mercury News – Killion: Let me grab my handkerchief:


If you were expecting emotion and sentiment think again. If you were expecting a Tony Gwynn-like farewell or a Cal Ripken-like embrace, sorry to disappoint.

The announcement came in typically, weirdly Bondsian fashion. Bonds was informed of the team decision by Peter Magowan during Thursday night’s game. Always the mercenary, he posted the news on his personal Web site Friday.

Within minutes of the posting, the scrambling Giants called a Friday-at-rush-hour press conference.

In the interview room there were three seats and three bottles of water and two participants: Peter Magowan and Brian Sabean. Bonds was not there for what should have been a sentimental moment but ended up being a clinical discussion of the surgical removal of No. 25.


And so ends the Bonds era, as it probably should. Not with a “final tour” and celebration, not with a stadium full of fans cheering one of the best players in baseball into the sunset, but with a press release and a press conference where the guest of honor(?) simply didn’t show, leaving his bosses to tap dance and try to spin Barry in as positive a light as they can — and finding it tough to do.

Is anyone really surprised? Because as good as Barry has been, and I’ll be the first to acknowledge it, he’s been a constant PR nightmare for the Giants and league, because he’s always believed that he deserves every accolade, and refused under any circumstance to reach out back to fans, to teammates, to the team or the league.

The top superstars have known they need to at least put on a show of reaching out to the fans — think Cal Ripken when he was more or less bodily assumed into heaven — but Barry? if jesus returned to earth to get his autograph, Barry would have him go though his agent. For the fans to want to connect to a player, the player has to at least put on the act that they don’t deserve all of the fanfare. Barry has always acted as if it was never enough; more than enough to put off many fans.

And so again, this leavetaking from the Giants won’t be a proper send off for Barry; he deserves more, he’s earned more — and yet we have to remember he orchestrated this. Something about Barry always seems to end up setting things up so he can walk away feeling bitter and disappointed about how it all ended.

And somewhere, deep inside, that seems to be how he wants it to be. He had everything going for him, steroids notwithstanding, to be the kind of player and person that owned the team and town and fans. Instead, we have this.

And if there are two things I would have guaranteed about this situation, it’s that (a) it was going to go down something like this, and (b) Barry will find a way to blame everyone else for it because we, his fans (and owners and teammates) don’t show him the proper respect, teh respect he earned.

Problem is, he only earned part of the respect he was due: the part on the field. His play is unquestionable. But he chose not to get involved with earning respect from others as a person, only as a player, and so he left a huge part of his legacy missing. He never seems to have figured out that the truly great players are both players AND people — just ask Tony Gwynn.

As someone who would fall into the “love watching him hit the ball, no asterisk (unless you put asterisks on a lot more entries), he is a scapegoat for a larger problem allowing other better-loved players to skate around the problem (but he earned that by being distant, whiny and pissy — but while I’d watch him play, I wouldn’t invite him to dinner” category of Bonds fan, I’m goin to miss watching him play, but not the rest of the mini-drama that comes along with Barry. That mini-drama that is always surrounding him, and never his fault.

And so it ends, not with a bang, but with a whine.

Frankly, as it should be. which is too bad, but it’s what Barry wanted. Why? maybe not even he knows. But he’d be a happier person if he figured it out, I think.


opening of training camp.

today was the first day of camp for the Sharks today, and I wandered down for a bit to take a look at what was going on.

you forget just how bloody big these guys are until you get close to them.

The practice seemed high tempo and spirited. I won’t pretend to have any deep insights for having watched cycling drills by half the team for about an hour. I’ll leave that to others… (grin)

I will say that the energy level seemed high, spirits were good but the players seemed very focussed and down to business. Very little horseplay and nobody seemed to be dogging it.

the “this seems, well, weird” moment: realizing that one of the coaches on the ice was Bryan marchment (along with Wayne thomas and Rob Zettler); it made me flash back to the old IHL and the Las Vegas Thunder, when we were down there for a couple of games, and ex-Shark Lyndon Byers was playing for them.

Byers was named assistant captain, and was asked to take a leadership role with the younger players. And he humorously mused about that in the newspaper with a “me? a role model?” quote.

I actually have a fondness for Marchment, as former readers of our Dallas Stars mailing list (now retired) might remember. For all his reputation and repeated suspensions (mostly earned, but towards the end, his reputation preceeded him at times), he actually could play some pretty good hockey.

The day San Jose traded for him, I stood up like many and had a big, noisy fit about on the list; I also have to admit that it took about two games watching him and isolating his game on the ice to realize what he brought to the sharks — above and beyond physical play and intimidation.

He was a good hockey player; and I admitted it. Dirty player? sometimes; so are lots of guys. Who’s a dirtier player, Marchment or Chelios? tough call. But mostly, I think Marchment’s game was not that he was trying to hurt guys, it was that he was playing the game his way, and simply didn’t worry about whether someone got hurt. That wasn’t his problem, his problem was getting the job done without getting himself hurt.

Of course, he did — I was watching the night he got concussed and went into convulsions on the ice. I don’t think I reacted as strongly to any on ice injury, other than perhaps Malarchuk (who was goalie for the Las Vegas Thunder when Lyndon Byers was the captain. small world — and the team had this young phenom named Bonk, who went on to become a first pick and a good, solid, third line center. For the record, at the time, I said he was a good mid-first round draft, not a top draft or top three. I guess for once I was right — and if he’d been drafted 12th or 15th, people would think Radek Bonk has had a good career; as a top draft, he’s been a big disappointment. be wary of getting what you ask for, and having to live up to it)

But I digress. Given camps are opening, I can. It means hockey isn’t far away, and the season tickets will be arriving any minute now… (seriously).

time to drop the puck!