The Hater’s Guide to Week 1

This is a new weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.

Me, shinin' (not pictured: you)

Me, shining (not pictured: you, seeing me shining)

Thursday, October 8 – Senators @ Sabres

Buffalo. People are saying Buffalo will be better this year, as if Buffalo could ever not be Bad, even when it’s better, as if God had never said “You know what, Buffalo, it is just not ever going to happen for you,” before going back to pummelling Buffalo with lake-effect snow. The only source of suspense in any Buffalo team’s sporting campaign is whether it will be honest with itself and lose immediately, or whether it will delay the inevitable right up until some kind of “wide right” or “skate in the crease” moment, as if this is somehow preferable. Yet Buffaloans (Buffaloafs?) persevere in the face of this abject loserdom, believing against all available evidence that their “star-crossed” history will only make eventual victory all the sweeter. This is asinine. Buffalo should never be an object of sympathy; it exists solely as a cautionary tale, reminding us of the universe’s inescapable nihilism.

Worst of all, I have heard tell of Senators fans with a soft spot for rival Buffalo, as if a common history of losing engenders some kind of kinship. This is the sort of weakness that’s supposed to be bred out of a species as it climbs the food chain. Any Senators fan that feels anything other than enmity for Buffalo is essentially telling you they’d think twice about climbing over a corpse to rescue themselves from a hole. Do not rely on these people.

PREDICTION: Some say that Robin Lehner has spent his summer gearing up to take revenge on the Senators in this game, presuming that the Robin Lehner Buffalo has traded for is some new version that never falters or melts down during emotional moments. I would say that if you liked the Robin Lehner that glowered at the Senators’ C-list defensemen after giving up yet another soft goal he may have been partially screened on, you’re going to LOVE this year’s Robin Lehner. Senators 5, Sabres 0.

Saturday, October 10 – Senators @ Maple Leafs

Okay, these guys already. You and I, we’ve developed a rapport at this point, right? So let me be real with you – ain’t nobody care about the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015. The only people still making Leafs jokes in 2015 either need to fill four hours of drive-time radio or refer to Twitter favs as “paying the bills”. Except that a Leafs joke in 2015 is less like paying the bills and more like making rent by doing something unsavoury with your landlord. You immediately feel bad about yourself and think about going back to school. The rest of us recognize that the Leafs are just another long-mediocre hockey team whose last relevant game with the Senators took place when Ulysses S. Grant was still alive. We generally ignore them, just like we do the Florida Panthers, or HPV.

I will say this: the general sarcastic pessimism adopted by modern Leafs fans is a cunning defensive strategy, but make no mistake – deep down, they still believe that their Scrooge McDuck vault, nerdy front office, and new “Jack-O’-Lantern on November 15”-headed coach will eventually break the fifty-year wizard’s curse on their franchise as long as they secretly pretend it isn’t happening until the very last minute. In their defense, though, it used to be the last ten minutes.

PREDICTION: The Leafs are now officially “rebuilding” – technically, bulldozing a pile of old cinderblocks counts as “rebuilding” – which basically means this year’s team picture is a copy of last year’s but with leading scorer/ol’ hickory ham Phil Kessel crossed out and like six guys named Brad photoshopped in. Look for the Leafs to set the tone early in this game by showing off the medium energy of a team that’s determined to juuuuust play itself out of a top five draft pick. The only outstanding question here is which of Joffrey Lupul and Nazem Kadri will have the more convincing “Wait ’til I tell my Dad about this” sneer after getting punched in the face by Mark Borowiecki. Senators 5, Maple Leafs 0.

Sunday, October 11 – Senators vs. Canadiens

You wanna #actually hate somebody? Here you go. The Senators play the Habs three more times this year, which affords me several future opportunities to skewer the no-account dirtbags that comprise their roster and spend a moment speaking to you now about their entitled, dim-witted fans. No, that’s unfair, “entitled” is too strong; Habs fans are only entitled the way that a weird tinpot dictator trying to assert rule by divine right atop some disputed-zone trash heap is entitled. Hey Habs fans, you know what it’s called when you’re constantly taking credit for something that happened before you were born? Having a trust fund. You people are why Occupy happened.

They come by it honestly, though. Unlike the Leafs, who at least occasionally demonstrate some grasp of the concept of shame, the Habs try to obscure the fact that they haven’t won a Stanley Cup since Olden Tymes by doubling down on concepts like “tradition” and “heritage”, as if having fans that are actually in their seats before the puck drops is somehow reason enough to make their pre-game ceremonies longer every year. Living in such a high-gravitas enviroment year-round leads to strange decisions, though. Like, imagine if your team’s leader was a young, charismatic, Norris-winning, All-World defenseman that set an example on and off the ice, and then you didn’t make him captain? Crazy, right? But I guess that’s heritage for you.

PREDICTION: You may recall that the last time these two teams met in a meaningful game, the Senators were eliminated from the playoffs following a disallowed goal from Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Have you ever seen the movie Falling Down? Remember the scene where Michael Douglas takes a fast food restaurant hostage until he gets his G-D breakfast? Jean-Gabriel Pageau is Michael Douglas, and this game is that breakfast. Senators 5, Canadiens 0.

Next week: a bunch of mid-western teams with dumb-ass jerseys.

A primer on how to talk about Ottawa Senators hockey during the 2015-2016 season


Pictured left: Erik Karlsson Pictured middle: Jared Cowen Pictured right: a deer

After having spent the last few years being one of many, many, many voices in a discussion about one particular team in one particular sport, I’ve concluded that there are a few ineluctable truths about this team (spoiler: Ottawa) on which we can each and every one of us agree. That isn’t to say that the details can’t be debated in one form or another, like a squabble of ducks nibbling around the edges of a delicious saltine cracker. But the distilled nougat at the center of each truth (editor’s note: saltine crackers do not contain nougat) should be common knowledge by now, and so, require no further writing.

After this post. In which I write about them.

In acknowledging the truths articulated below, it’s my hope that we, the fans—the collective heart, and perhaps a small part of the brains of this team—might come to some sort of understanding about how to constructively talk about the Ottawa Senators and thereby enjoy watching them play hockey maybe a little bit more.

They are as follows:

  • The team owner, Eugenious R. Melnyk III, does not have enough liquid cash on hand to spend to the cap. This fact often inflates a concept we understand and describe through clenched teeth as, “The Infernal Budget.” (See what I did there? Thanks, I went to college for like 9 years.)
  • Though 1) exists, it does not mean that the owner doesn’t have enough money to operate the team, which is to say he can keep selling tickets and merchandise and just generally keep the ship floating as the franchise’s underlying value accrues.
  • However, also because 1) exists, the team can’t spend the next 4-5 years tanking and not making any money, because Eugenious can’t float the losses.
  • It makes absolutely no sense—zero whatsoever—for the owner to sell the team now. The league keeps growing. Revenue sharing is in place. There’s a TV deal kicking in. Expansion is on the way. There’s money to be made on this team over the next decade.
  • Though the team might have a couple of clunker contracts on the roster, they don’t have any absolute stinkers, and those that do stink are of a small enough order as to not significantly tie management’s hands. Yes, Colin Greening’s contract didn’t work out. Sure, Bobby Ryan should make like $1M less. Jared Cowen is paid like a defenceman he’s never been. Chris Neil and Chris Phillips are old and ineffective. But none of those deals were made without justification at the time. Some of the guys  are well loved and have been with the franchise their whole careers. Some were given Turris-like low risk / high reward contracts that didn’t pan out. Jared Cowen has prestige and punched Ian White in the face that one time. That doesn’t mean that management is inept. Whatever swings for the fences that fell short are more than than made up for by the high value contracts for Karlsson, Turris, Anderson, Stone, Zibanejad, Methot, MacArthur, Hoffman, Chiasson, and Wiercioch.

What does this mean for people who write and read about the team? Well:

  • The team can’t spend money that isn’t there, so don’t suggest that they go out and get whomever.
  • The owner will not sell the team just so we can have a new owner who has the money to go out and get whomever.
  • The team is going to keep trying to sneak into the playoffs where “anything can happen” ™ for the foreseeable future. No five-year rebuild.
  • Though we can note when a contract didn’t pan out, and how a team that needs to spend money wisely can’t have too many bad contracts, spilling literally twenty million words every year about what amounts to about 14% of their cap space delivering 7% of its value just isn’t compelling enough a story to convince anyone that ownership and management don’t know what they’re doing.

So, with what does that leave us? How can we possibly write about hockey in Ottawa if we’re not wringing our hands about finances?

Well, for starters, acknowledging that everybody knows the above and closing those discussions for a wee period of time allows us to focus on the individual games being played right there in front of us, every other night, like magic. It allows us to enjoy and to talk about the experience of watching live hockey, and the myriad moments in any given game that contribute to the end result.

Letting go of the bugaboo of ownership dollars and Greening’s contract allows us to give in to the dizzying highs and desultory lows of watching a small-town hockey team, led by the greatest defenceman of his generation and an undrafted goaltender with hamburgers painted on the side of his helmet, as it attempts to snatch divine inspiration from the vain clutches of the media-market gods.

It allows us bloggers, unwashed and uncouth, to write about important topics like fairness, and inclusiveness, and community, and to participate in something larger than any one of us, and to revel in celebrations of Asgardian scope and become deeply and inconsolably depressed when the team blows a lead in the last minute.

It allows us to put aside the petty, daily distractions we are each faced with and to enjoy sport as entertainment. And, when we aren’t enjoying it, to change the channel and watch something else.

And it allows us to identify the many, many other things to write about and talk about that will come to us spontaneously after one too many plastic cups of $9 draft.

What I’m saying is that I’m supremely looking forward to this year, not least of which because we have an exciting young team, but also because it’s possible for us to create the conditions in which to enjoy it. Hockey is a lot of fun. It’s the best sport in the world. Let’s start talking about it that way.

At least until we start talking about the new arena. During the construction of which we will all die.

4 Things I’m Hmmmm Not So Much Looking Forward To This Season

Service. Selection. VALUE.

Service. Selection. VALUE. Fucking guy has gotten a million dollar raise every year. Who is this guy’s agent, Chris Phillips?

Wait For It…Wait For It…….*closes eyes, bites lip* Jared “JC” Cowen:
For all the “Murray loves his big boys afja;lskdjf ;fdsjbf;lksg kjhsfdgl s” endless trope, the fact I can’t ignore is that Murray just will not (cannot?) trade him and keeps going back to saying that Cowen’s been injured/recovering from injury for years and is finally healthy and will show his true ability this season. As you know, you gotta hear both sides and though he is far from my favorite player, I have to admit, Cowen’s injury troubles have coincided almost perfectly with the exaaaaaaaaact moment since we all started hating him.
It’s also undeniable that the injuries he’s suffered have been pretty significant. It’s at least feasible that he might have been well enough to play last year but only enough to perform as a shadow of the potential guy we say a couple years ago.
Before he even made it to the NHL, Cowen had reconstructive knee surgery and followed it with a quiet World Junior tournament and many people, including myself, were super low on him. Over time he got back to normal and came out the gate pretty strong as a rookie in Ottawa.
I remember the word out of Binghamton right before the hip labarum thing was that he was mercilessly pancaking everyone in sight. That he was looking quick, solid and strong; on the fast track to take the next step in his development. Then we fast forward through the awful hip thing and then this hernia thing. I can’t deny his mobility went from a non issue to a major one following those injuries. He’s come back from a major set back in the past. He is still quite young and could potentially do it again.
So, on one hand I’m thinking, it’s at least arguable that he’s not as bad as he’s been but on the OTHER I’m like, “Son gets injured…severely…a lot.” Alllllso, that season with all the potential spoken of earlier is getting pretty far in the rear view.
I’m not the first to say this but this is the last chance for JC to show and prove. But here’s the rub –Oh I’m sorry, you thought the rub already happened…nah Boo Boo, peep rub game: Even if Jared Cowen does bounce back, which again, I’m not ruling out, I think he’s going to top out as a 3rd pairing guy.
*Movie trailer voice* From the teaaaaaaam that brought you Eric Gryyyyba…comes….
                              Eric Gryba 2: Return of the More Expensive Gryba.
Where I’m at: I hope Cowen is at best a slightly better version of Gryba. It is very hard to  imagine him surpassing Wiercioch who outperformed him by a country mile last year in about as many games. That and Patty had a breakout performance in the playoffs instead of you know, being scratched the entire playoffs. So by this thinking, this bus stops at 3rd pairing on the left side.
So spoiler here: Even best case scenario we’re never going to be happy with him as he will always seems like a disappointment because of his pedigree and price tag. Oh, speaking of which and I don’t know about the last chance stuff I mentioned earlier. Believe the trade rumor chatter about him if you want (no one does) but this guy’s been pretty awful for a minute and stands to make 4,500,000 human dollars NEXT year. Yep, more than now ($3.7M). Another raise of nearly one million in as many years. He will make 400K less than Marc Methot next season. He aint going nowhere except maybe Binghamton. The only trade I could even entertain happening is one for a different kind of Cowen. Like Greenzo, he just makes too much for too long to trade him. We’re stuck with this guy. I guess we live in a world where Columbus managed to move Nathan Horton but in the mean time y’all are better off to pray with me that Jared Cowen is a decent 3rd pairing D man and not…nothing.

Cameron Gunna Do Some Stuff With the Lineup That’s Gonna Have Fans WILD Frustrated
I’m certainly not the first person to bring it up but even though he was pretty real talk about benching some players, DC did have the luxury of having some of the less skilled players on the injured reserve through most or all of the Sens glorious run to the playoffs. Smith, Cowen, Neil and Phillips were all out for the stretch run. MacArthur’s top six spot was up for grabs. Hell, he didnt even have to deal with the Anderson vs. Lehner politics through it. It’s undeniable that he even had a bit of that, “Whoa, where do you think you’re goin’ Neiler…can’t mess up this mojo” leeway going for him once players did get healthy again.
With the exception of Phillips, going into this season, he won’t have it that easy.
I am realistic to the idea that Chris Neil, who in addition to drawing ever nearer to the 1000 game milestone, will be playing for his very career this year and as such will draw into several games. Zack Smith is going to be given his chances too. In the case of Smith, it’s not all bad. My advice is to be patient. I think he will be given the Greening trade showcase special. Oh btw, don’t rule out some games for Greening again. Unlike Greening, however, I think Smith is one of the most tradeable bottom 6 players on the team. Smith is not as bad his 3 points in …38 games *gets very dizzy* indicates and his contract is excellent. Smith had a really rough start to last year adjusting to wing and he couldn’t bounce back from that horrible sounding wrist injury. Have you ever hurt your wrist? It’s gross. The shit takes like a YEAR to feel normal again. Anyway, he’s got over 300 games for the Sens, he’s going to be in the starting line up. At just $1.8M for a big, tough 4th line centre who’s had a 13 and 14 goal seasons, expect him to get moved at the deadline. Try not to lose your shit too much when he’s getting looks, guys like Smith are catnip for GMs. I all but guarantee he’ll be moved.
*Skips talking about Jared Cowen more*
Rookies like Shane Prince and Chris Wideman may not make it into every game either. I want them to get their shot as much as the next person but a gradual intro is how it often seems to go for rookies. From Mark Stone to Patrick Wiercioch to Erik Condra (god bless), most promising players coming up from the minors tend to get spot duty rather than just thrown into the shit full time. I’m not super stoked on it as being patient with development is not my strong suit (Me want Thomas Chabot NOW dammit) but I’m bracing myself for Shane Prince to potentially splitting some time with *30 second exhale through nose* Colin Greening. Wideman will have it even tougher with zero NHL games experience and 6 defenders ahead of him on the current depth chart. Lest we forget Chris Phillips shooting up adamantium in the shadows. Ugh, who knows what that will look like if Big Rig deems himself fit to play. Cross that bridge when we get there I guess. Heyyyyy at least the guys on the edge of roster are still exciting, skilled players.

Is “Bobby Ryan Needs to Score 30 Goals” the New “Jason Spezza Not a Good Baaackchecker Thooo”?
No, Bobby Ryan did not score as many goals as he was expected to last season. He went into a near quarter season slump (he also carried the team offensively for a couple of months as well but ima let this point cook for a minute).
Okay. I, like all fans, hope this guy has the best year of his career and everythink like that (thumbs up). I just also hope we can find it in ourselves to not treat this guy like he’s a disaster if he scores like 28 (or fewer) goals. I will TAKE him putting up betwixt 20 and 30 goals, especially if he’s playing well all around.
There’s no question that Ryan is a talented goal scorer. I understand that’s why The Bryan made a big play for him. It’s been his job his whole career. I just can’t get it out of the back of my head that when he put up a career high of 35 biscuits back in 2009-10, he was playing with Cup Winner/Olympian shlubs like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf posted an incredible 50 assists in just 66 games the 09/10 season. Perry had 49 helpers. That’s just two players dishing out 99 goals right there.
The following season, when Bobby Raw put up 34 goals, Perry and Getzlaf combined for 105 helpers. Getzlaf had 57 assists for 76 points in ONLY 67 games (soft). Perry en route to a Rocket Richard & Hart Trophy (selfish) dropped down to a pathetic 48 assists.  Good thing Tea-Moo Salami (of future First Ballot Hall of Fame fame) was there to pick up the slack with his 49 assists. Jesus, while were at it can we talk about how Lubomir Visnovsky (person) dropped 18 goals and 50 assists on some lowkey Erik Karlsson shit? How the fuck did these dickheads not win the Cup? OH, they got bounced in the 1st round you say? …man, I need to relax about losing to Pittsburgh as a low seed all those times. What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, what I have tried to outline here is Ryan played with some dudes who could put up some POOOOIIIINTS in Anaheim.
Perspective: Norris trophy winner, Erik Karlsson would have been 6th in scoring on that 2010 team just behind Visnovsky. FML. King Karl has led Ottawa in points the past two years he’s been healthy. He’s a defenseman. An all-world one…but a defenseman. Different Teams. Different Needs.
After the departure of Spezza with the exception of Karlsson, Turris and Stone (who just became a thing like 45 minutes ago), this team is not overloaded with elite playmakers like those Ducks teams were. Only Karlsson is on a comparable level. All this to say, on this Senators team Ryan is going to be relied upon to set his linemates up about as much as he is to put the puck in the net. It’s likely to come at the cost of some goals. His 36 assists last year could be indicative of that. That may not seem like a ton but it’s the second highest total of his career.
Real Talk Korner: Even if Bobby didn’t have that extended dry spell, I’m still not entirely sure he’d have hit the coveted 30 goal plateau. Going into this season, if he doesn’t have a slump I think a 25 goal, 65 point campaign is about what you should probably expect. If he’s making his teammates better, that’s not the worst thing in the world.

Ohhhh The “Schedule” Look at our Fancy Aristocratic Friend With His SCHEDULE! Ha! What’s that? What Do I Call It? A Game Quilt.
I’ma come CLEAN about the schedule. Like with referees or an opposing team’s broadcast play by play, for whatever reason I am always on some serious hater shit. I’m a tough audience, I admit it. I know this because every year the schedule is released I am bummed out about it. I don’t even know if it’s better or worse than other teams. WHO HAS TIME TO FIND OUT ANYTHING IN THIS WORK A DAY WORLD!? Again, I don’t know how it shakes out in comparison to others but there are a couple of things that I think are objectively rough about this year’s table.

First item of concern is that throughout the season, the Sens will play 28 games back to back (or 14 back to backs if you want to be a complete D about it). After his historic run of wins last season HAS ANYONE MENTIONED THIS RUN YET? back up goaltender Andrew Hammond will certainly get his share of starts based on the back to back games alone. Anderson loves the lion’s share of starts but he’s not exactly known for his durability either. More concern! You’re welcome :) Even though he seems content with his role as back up there will still be there will be a ton of pressure on Hammond to perform.
Like Robin Lehner before him, Hammy isn’t really an ordinary back up. Every time Lehner would get a start it would never have the feel of your average Alex Auld start against whatever visiting team in the midst of a long road trip. With Lehner every start would always have this air of “This is Lehner’s Big Chance at stealing the starting job from Anderson!” Not saying it will be that with Hammond but after the unicorn that was last season, I anticipate many of Hammond’s opportunities will have a “Is this guy the real deal? Did he deserve a 3 year(!) contract?” vibe surrounding them. Me? I’m pretty confident that Hammond is Curtis McElhinney good. I guess the 4 back to backs in the first two months and a sprinkling of additional starts we will start to find out early. I really hope he gets off to a solid start.

I’m just going to post this nightmarish image to speak for itself:

Game Quilt

What no west coast away game at high altitude against Colorado on Christmas eve at 4am? Lazy!

Let’s break it on down: We come in calienté with a home game against Philly. Not too bad, fine with that…Oh, then for the next four fucking weeks it’s relentlessly one day on, one day off (what is this baseball?) but don’t worry the entire second week is a road trip. Luckily, the Sens only have to face the Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks, Presidents Trophy winning Rangers, Cup finalist Lightning (only twice, so it’s all good. Stamkos is in a contract year so…) and the only shitty by Western Conference standards Kings and Sharks. Toss in the Islanders, Habs and Caps just to make it zesty. They then get a luxurious four days off, two of which workers must have off BY LAW in this country. Then cap it off with a cozy little home and home with the Bruins that is glued to a back to back (theme) against the Devils. I would imagine the boys will celebrate New Year’s Eve by sleeping for the next 36 hours.

Last season, Paul MacLean was given the axe on December 8th. The month was obviously used by Bryan Murray as a fulcrum point to decide where his team was at. This year Cameron wont likely be under nearly as dire a situation but will have a razor thin margin of error for how he rests and uses his troops. He’s worked under a ton of pressure already in his young career as a head coach but regardless this is going to be a massive month in terms of how his sophomore season as coach goes.

Eh….Go Ativan Go, I mean, Sens!

Feeling like you’re getting an ulcer? Purify yourself in the waters of Lake Part One of This Series That is Far More Positive here.

4 Things I’m Looking Forward To This Season:

Remember Cecer...every goal this like earning a new Jetski next year.

Remember Cecer…every goal this year…is like earning a new Jetski next year.

Welcome to part one this two part series that will run from today all the way to tomorrow or maybe the following day. Next up will be be the exciting conclusion “4 Things I’m Hmmmm Not So Much Looking Forward To This Season” 

Contract Years for Both Cody Ceci and Patrick Wiercioch

There’s a lot of talk on the Sensphere™ about the need for Bryan Murray to get out in these streets of rage and spend some money *tumbleweed wearing sunglasses rolls by* to get a free agent to shore up the second D pairing. Some would even argue he needs to improve the top pairing. I mean, Marc Methot has been nothing but excellent on the first pairing for an extremely reasonable price since he got here but I’ma let you people cook. Anyway, I don’t disagree that if one aspect of the team needs improvement it’s the defence and the second pairing in particular. That said, it’s my opinion that the defence is the last step in the rebuild that began in the spring of 2011 (Ed Note: Please hold your Actuallys until the end of the presentation, thank you). I’m serious, I think Ceci and Wiercioch could very well have a ceiling of top 4 defenders; they just haven’t quite reached it yet is all. Buying the services of an FA can no question help your team get better faster. But for a club (and fanbase) as concerned about spending cash wisely as Ottawa’s you gotta be careful. Lest we forget how quick it was brought up how Sergei Gonchar made an unreasonable 5.5 million dollars whenever he would have a couple of bad games in a row, which was sometimes! Remember, G was a Cup winner fresh off a 50 point season when he was signed here. You gotta outbid other teams for a guy like him I.E. You gotta overpay. Sometimes you get a Nick Leddy bargain but most of the time you get a Gonchar who can never “save the team” enough or live up to the money.

With Ceci and Wiercioch, especially the former talent (can we talk about how the 21 year old Ceci basically sidestepped the need to play in the AHL?), it remains to be seen if what we’re getting but I think we should remain patient and find out. If Erik Karlsson’s current contract shows something, it’s that if you’ve get a special home grown player to re-sign, you can save a boatload of cash with that RFA negotiating power and what seems to be some kind of Loyalty Rewards Card that Bryan Murray has mad points on.
If this team keeps trending up, I want the organization to have as much walking around money left over as possible to start adding final pieces. Hey, I told you to warn me if I stopped living in the now and got too far ahead of myself…

What we have here two young, obviously talented players with a lot of potential and offensive upside. With the two of them vying to get as big a raise as they can manage while trying to solidify their spots in the line up, it should be a lot of fun to watch.

Cokedreams Conclusion: Karlsson’s last contract year was the shiiiiit. He put up 78 points (!!?) and won a Norris. A broke ass version of that from either of these dudes would be a massive boost to the team.

Dave Cameron Not Having to Win Every Fucking Game to Stay Alive:

Peace to the hardly ever losing GAWD and all but Santa Maria did this guy have a slim margin of error to work with. Follow me: There was actually LESS pressure for him to win to stay alive after the team made the playoffs than before. Brazy.
Oh, and allow me be the first person to point out that the Sens are likely going to be unable to re-create their historic run *thunderous applause* ALRIGHT ALREADY. Thank you. That hottake just came to me so I went with it. I like how the unlikelihood of repeating a near two month long win streak is constantly pointed out like it’s something anyone expects. Hey, we’re Sens fans, we’re happy with a 3 game winning streak round here thank you very much. It was fun and very special but I, for one, am excited 2 move ON.

Cameron starting the season off with a clean sheet is an intriguing story line for me. I think it’s safe to say that majority of Sens fans initially doubted the hiring of Dave Cameron ESPECIALLY when BryBry hit us with the “this is not an interim hire” right out the gate. Little did we know homeboy would finish the season with a Quenvillian 32-15-8. Winning is great and we all like Cambo (…it’s like…a play on…Rambo BACK OFF IT’S PRESEASON FOR ALL OF US) but with a new contract signed, a 0-0-0 record and a healthy line up to start the 2015-16 season, we are about to see what this guy can really do with the controls.

Thus far we’ve seen that Killa Cam preaches a fitness-first, hard skating practice style for his fast transition game and a “best players play” real talk attitude toward the line up he ices. He also has a new man running our (seemingly always shitty) power play in new assistant coach Alain Tourignafdsfdgjrkgeegoni. So that’s…new.

Many coaches replacing a guy who lost the room often experience early success so here’s hoping he can keep it up. On a optimistic note, (Don’t worry, there will be a more negative Cameron thing in the next post just to keep it 100), according to Wiccanpedia, we’ve had 26 coaches in the nation’s capital since the gawdbody Bryan Murray stepped down in after the 2007 season…and came back for a minute after firing John Paddock less than a year after stepping down…anyway what was I talking about again? COACHES, we’ve HAD ‘em. One of these fuckers has to work out eventually right? Let’s hope we’ve finally found someone solid after about 7 seasons of searching in the desert.

Mercifully, We Seem to be More or Less Out tha Dave Dziurzynski Era of Call Ups

Call it part patience with development paying off, part having far more skilled prospects in the system, but the Sens have stayed calling up higher end players for the past couple of seasons now.

At the start of last season, I remember it was the same story as this year’s “only one spot up for grabs on the roster.” By Spring we’d seen Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Courteous Lazar, Matt Puempel and Shane Prince make it up to the NHL level in some capacity. For what it’s worth puck moving defenseman Chris Wideman even got a call up despite not getting the chance to play in a game.

This summer I’ve come across some moaning about the team not possessing any top flight prospects—I guess you don’t produce a Calder nominee, a rookie who lead the Sens in scoring, a 21 year old defenseman who only played about 30 AHL before making the club and a World Junior gold medal winning captain without the luxury of a lotto or even top 10 pick in the last 5 years without making a few enemies.
Sure, our playoff team (btw) doesn’t seem to have the next Tyler Seguin in the system at the moment but I will take what we currently have over the not so long ago classic “The Ottawa Senators have recalled Cody Bass from Binghamton” mess any day.

The fact is that many of the Sens best prospects have graduated to the big club in the last few seasons yet the cupboards are far from bare. There are still exciting prospects fighting for spots at both forward and defense and perhaps soon enough in goal as well. Keeping that internal competition zesty is great news for this fan. It wasn’t all that long ago when the only hope for legit help from the farm was Nick Foligno. Nothing against Foligno it’s just that it was either him or praying that Denis Hamel finally figured out how to travel back in time to kill Hitler (naturally) and avoid that knee injury he suffered in 2000 that ruined his shot at the bigs. Nothin else.

Hey, by the way, I’m as unnerved as anyone when I hear Bryan Murray and co. utter the name Dave Dziurzynski as a guy who as a “real shot” at getting some games this year. I mean, lord knows Ottawa could benefit from a dude who put up 4 goals and 14 points in the AHL last year but I’m hoping it’s just lip service to the guys who’ve been riding the bus for years now.
What’s most important is that this season, there are many far more talented players ahead of him on the depth chart. Hell, even Buddy Robinson seems like a version of him with more upside. Look, I’m dumping on this poor guy. What I ultimately mean to say here is that Dave D would be the first guy who’d get called up a few years ago. Now, it would be a slap in the face to guys like Shane Prince or Matt Puempel to not prioritize them. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a couple of games from a youngster like Nick Paul this season. Young pups have developed nicely and earned shots and ultimately our eyes will be happier for it.

Ottawa Plays Toronto 4 Times This Season Instead of the Usual 5

In the Digital Age™ of tracking trends in the sport of Ice Hockey (that’s what we call it in Canada so we don’t confuse it with the other popular hockeys) one of my LEAST favourite trends to examine is Ottawa’s record vs. Toronto (the other is our success on the Power Play).

Seriously, what in the Hesus Christo happens when these teams get together? I’m like a broken record with this but feel me. Look, sure, I hate them, we’ll just get that out of the way, but there’s more to it than that. My problem is mainly this: Toronto is a shitty division rival who Ottawa just cannot beat consistently. Consider this, 2014-15 was Ottawa’s best season series against the leafs in 5 years…they went 2-1-2. *lets it s(t)ink in* That looks at first glance like Ottawa won more games than they lost. I see it as more of a glass half empty situation. Against the 4th worst team in the entire league, a 2-1-2 record is two points blown in OT or the shootout more than it’s two loser points salvaged.

The last three seasons, the Sens combined record against the loaves (thank you, Autocorrect) is a putrid 4-6-4. C’mon B, have a little pride, don’t you realize these guys suuuck? It was a lot easier to take when we we’re getting stonewalled by Tim Thomas year after year but you’re telling we can’t light up James fucking Reimer? That guy’s barely a starter!

As admittedly petty as this comes off, this is important to me because Ottawa is a team that typically either barely claws its way into the playoffs or just misses them. You gotta hack the BONE with the weaker teams in your division. Ottawa going 3-2-0 against the Bruins last season was the kind of subtle make or break stuff that helped get them into the post-season.

I’m an optimistic fan but for whatever reason year upon year Les Boys repeatedly struggle against these turds and I’m glad there’s one less goddamn game against them. Yep, that’s where I’m at, after watching the team go nearly unbeaten for like two months I am happy to avoid the lottery team that just traded away their best player.

On Hockey’s Spaces for Girls and Women

(Content warning: post and links discuss harassment, assault, sexual assault, rape, murder, domestic violence, and sexism)

For as long as I can remember, there was just one answer: Bobby Orr’s defense partner.

Like most little kids, I wondered what my parents had wanted to be when they grew up. My mom repeated over and over that she wanted to be Bobby Orr’s partner. Not Bobby Orr, the superstar, but simply to play the game she loved in the presence of greatness. Now as an adult who eagerly anticipates every Erik Karlsson shift, I have a better understanding of that desire.

My mom never played organized hockey of course. Born in the late-50s, she played road hockey but was of an era of girls who were forever on the sidelines when the teams started keeping score and using real equipment. Not only was organized hockey too expensive for my grandparents, a little girl playing minor hockey with the boys was unthinkable in the small town and time she grew up in.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved hockey, just like my mom. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to play hockey, just like my mom. I accepted that I couldn’t because there were no girls’ leagues anywhere near my hometown. In fact, as a little girl, I had never seen women’s hockey. The inaugural world championship was held when I was six years old and again two years later, but we had limited TV options and it wasn’t exactly on anyone’s radar. Girls weren’t in commercials about hockey and my love of the game was deemed unusual by more than one elementary school teacher and by many of my classmates.

When I was nine, the region got its first girls minor hockey league and my parents signed me up.

It was glorious.

But it wasn’t easy. Less than 300 girls played in that first season and several municipalities around the region were at best skeptical of the possibility of success and at worst actively contributed to its failure. In the local paper some openly questioned what we were trying to achieve. Women would never make the NHL or earn a living from hockey so what was the point of trying? As if potential millions or a chance at stardom were the only reasons to play or as if Manon Rhéaume hadn’t just played a preseason game for Tampa Bay. What they meant, and some actually said, was why are we wasting even a small amount of resources on girls’ hockey if it’s not going to lead to significant male achievement. I’m sure there were girls who wanted to play whose parents felt the same way. We were on the fringes.

Ice time was hard to come by as towns, boys’ leagues, and men’s leagues refused to share the ice or offer times appropriate for children. They argued that they should receive preference because they had seniority. And they had a point, the boys’ league in my hometown had been running and using rinks in town since the mid-50s and men’s beer leagues were common. But to use that as part of their attack required these men to ignore the systemic issues which prevented girls from playing and organizing for decades. As I look back as an adult more than 20 years later, I find myself even less sympathetic to their concerns. Men’s leagues who refused to give up post-dinner playing slots and municipalities who bowed to their wishes resulted in eight-year-olds playing well into the night. The preferential treatment they received would have been fine if those towns consisted solely of adult men, but they didn’t and still don’t.

We live in society with one another. Ideally, this means we consider how our actions and needs impact others. When I’ve played sports as an adult, I understood the late night time lots. As an adult I was able to make it to games on my own and didn’t need supervision. Yes, there are constraints on adults’ time too, but there are only so many hours in a day and so many sheets of ice available. Equitable solutions aren’t without some sacrifice. Children, so often seen as a burden and inconvenience by society deserve the same considerations as the adults who pay the bills.

The resistance to sharing arena space was about sexism, plain and simple. Couched in arguments about fairness and loyalty, men who saw hockey as their past time and theirs exclusively, did what they could to make girls know they weren’t wanted. There were occasions when men’s league teams found out a group of girls would be using the same dressing room after them and they made their feelings known. On many occasions we entered dressing rooms soaked in alcohol, or with urine all over the floor and benches, or with waste smeared on the walls. More than once with all three. We were jokingly told to “enjoy the room” when this happened. At the junction of arena corridors and dressing room doors, sometimes our two different groups would intersect. Lewd comments, explicit gestures, and mocking laughter were common greetings. This didn’t happen at every game and every practice but it wouldn’t have happened at all if we’d been more like them.

It didn’t last, but we did.

These things just seemed normal about playing hockey, but quickly we experienced them less and less. There were a few reasons for the change. Our numbers kept growing. More and more girls signed up to play and loved it. Our little sisters joined us. Our towns got used to us. Women’s hockey got a boost of both visibility and credibility in the mid-90s when the IOC announced women would play for gold in Nagano in 1998. Scholarships to colleges and universities followed. What seemed destined for failure in the early 90s was a sure thing several seasons later.

In a few short years, girls’ hockey became naturalized.

For a long time, hockey had been a defining feature of Canadian boyhood. Hockey’s cultural centrality in Canada still remains, but now reflects the experience of being any child in this country. The connections between Canadian identity and hockey can be problematic and still exclude some but it’s been opened to a lot more kids in the two decades since I started playing. It’s much harder to ignore young female fans now; however, to know that there have always been girls who have liked hockey, I need only ask my mom. Girls are featured in commercials about hockey, as part of the introductions on HNIC, and stand with NHL players on the ice before the anthems. We see them on Hockey Day in Canada broadcasts. There are still challenges facing girls who want to play hockey and yes, some are gendered. Others are issues of discrimination also faced by boys, like the economic cost of playing the organized game. But there are clearly defined roles for girls in hockey and these roles include playing the game and watching as a fan.

But what happens when those girls become women?

We’ve had a few generations of girls who have grown up playing hockey, cheering for female hockey stars, and advancing their careers by playing in college. The game continues to grow among girls and women. In Canada, female registration in minor and rec hockey has grown almost 1000% since the 1990-91 season, about the same time I started playing. Even after the 90s onslaught of new teams and leagues, female registration still increased 59% between 2001-02 and 2012-13. And yet mainstream hockey culture still actively discourages female fandom and resists cultivating spaces of inclusion.

The reasons are many. For starters, it’s a matter of representation. There are still not enough female sports reporters and women in sports broadcasting fewer still. Privileging male experience and frequent and extreme harassment of women in sports media contributes to keeping women out. Hockey’s contempt for women is seen in the NHL’s (and minor and junior leagues) atrocious handling of issues of violence against women and sexual assault. It’s illustrated plainly in hockey marketing and media.
Many men who love hockey hate what they perceive as the intrusion of women into their domain.

We continue to brand fandom space as male. Male fans create “man caves,” male-only bastions of fandom that suggest sport is the sole purview of men. Perhaps most insidiously, these spaces imply that women are to be escaped from and that the place to do that is in sports fandom.

Hockey culture reinforces the centrality of men at the expense of women. Women exist on the fringes, the periphery, marginalized by the toxic masculinity that is pervasive in fan culture.

The fact that there have always been women who love hockey is frequently erased. The strides girls have made in hockey have not translated to greater visibility for women. The rise of women’s leagues like the CWHL and NWHL, which have led to an increase in online coverage of the women’s game, haven’t altered how these same networks cover issues impacting women in the larger hockey world. The rise in girls’ organized hockey has not corresponded with an increase in or diversified roles for women in the sport.

The girls who feature in TV ads, whose perspectives and love of the game are centered as children are pushed to the periphery of advertising as women. Beer commercials seen during hockey games show women in crowds or as sexual objects, but rarely as the focus of the ad. Gambling commercials depict men hanging out and joking with other men, as the sources of hockey expertise and the possessors of sports guts. Women are pushed to the fringes.

The most visible female labour in NHL hockey are the female-dominated ice girls/crews, which also represent the margins of employment in hockey. Ice girls aren’t valued as labour, and labour, both paid and unpaid, impacts the extent to which women can participate in the sport, both as players and fans. While both men and women do valuable, unpaid work every day, the division of this labour is still unequal. The demands of raising children and running a household impact our fandoms. Many women just want a break to watch the game too.

When hockey appears in a novel, on a TV show, or in movies it’s rarely about a woman playing or a women who are fans. This kind of representation continues to grow for girls but remains elusive for women. Women are often depicted as secondary characters, such as wives are girlfriends, without the same depth and agency afforded the male leads. A lot of the time, women are typically depicted as hockey moms. There’s nothing wrong with that role and women who volunteer their time to coach, as team moms, and to drive to every practice and game help keep minor hockey going. But the stereotype just doesn’t capture the many ways women enter hockey and the diversity of ways their love of hockey manifests. There are parents at the rink who behave in negative and detrimental ways, but hockey moms in particular are singled out and endlessly mocked as intense and crazy. Not only is this ableist, it plays into dated tropes of the hysterical woman. It also serves to marginalize both the contributions of women in hockey and also their love of the game. Women who love the game are crazy, men who love the game are passionate fans, so the belief goes. When female points of view are present and central in media like novels and movies, these works are derided and their importance minimized. Romance novels featuring hockey plots and players are dismissed in part because they disrupt the belief that the male gaze is the default perspective of hockey fans. Good romance novels are, at their core, explorations of consensual female sexual desire and are mocked, in part, because of this fact. Again, women are pushed to the perimeter.

Existing on the margins of a sport is dangerous. When that existence replicates the marginalization experienced in life more generally, it’s threatening, hazardous, and deadly.

Many male fans think discrimination in the game has decreased in recent years. To think discrimination is slowly leaving the game, one must ignore the gendered discrimination that’s rampant in the hockey played by boys and men. Many male fans see objections to the NHL’s handling of cases of domestic violence and sexual assault in its midst as abstractions and secondary concerns. Some refuse to acknowledge domestic violence and sexual assault at all. But violence and sexual assault are part of the lived experience of many women and many female hockey fans. Domestic violence and sexual assault are taking many women who love the game from us.

When I was a teenager there was one girl I played with for a few seasons in a row. She was an average player but an exceptional person. A positive force in the dressing room, she was always smiling and friendly. She volunteered at tournaments and was always at the rink. She continued playing in women’s leagues and added coaching to her volunteer commitments in adulthood. She mentored young girls and older women who were learning the game. We played hockey together and worked at the same store. We were friendly but didn’t hangout outside of those spheres and I lost touch with her when high school ended. She continued to live in the area, playing hockey and volunteering. Several years later her ex-boyfriend stalked and harassed her before murdering her. She was 27.

I want so much for her death to be an example of an extreme, but it’s not. It’s the tragic end of a straight line which begins in our society and our game with the erasure of women. The line is shorter than you think. That we resist seeing every day, common examples of sexism as examples of discrimination and as contributing factors to this violence helps perpetuate it and obscure solutions. She was unique in life and we are lesser for her loss but in death she joined a vast sisterhood of women terrorized by men.

When I think about what happened to her and some of the other girls – now women – that I played with, the violence they experienced from the men in their lives, it’s hard to draw a line separating the toxicity of hockey’s masculinity from that of the country’s. Hockey’s masculinity is synonymous with Canadian masculinity. Both versions of masculinity erase women and jeopardize their safety. It happens at our rinks and in our communities. The stereotypical good Canadian boy loved by Don Cherry and his cohorts, plays a physical game, through pain, adheres to an antiquated code designed to humiliate and eliminate difference, and above all, he is a character guy. But with shifting attitudes and the pervasiveness of social media, it’s getting harder and harder to hide the criminal, violent behaviour of hockey players.

They’re not all good guys. Some abuse, some assault, some rape. Virtually all the others stand with their teammates. Sometimes we characterize NHL and NHLPA inaction as silence on the issues facing women, as silence on violence against women and sexual assault. But inaction is anything but silence, inaction loudly proclaims that goals, wins, and television contracts are more important than women’s safety and women’s lives.

The issues hockey fans are now beginning to confront aren’t new but it’s the first time many male fans have received any pushback on attitudes and behaviours that harm women. Girls deserved space and a role in this game and hockey and its fans have adapted. That some men who refuse to make space for women have accepted girls because they want their daughters to have every opportunity seems likely. It’s not the respect girls deserve, but it has resulted in increased acceptance. That these same men can’t acknowledge women who love hockey is due at least in part to the changes that reality requires. It would require acknowledging women as people deserving of respect because they’re people and not because they are daughters, sisters, mothers, wives, girlfriends, sexual objects, or because they have a relationship of some kind with men. When girls started to organize, our leagues were peripheral parts of hockey culture and as a result we were subject to abuse. Until women’s experiences are recognized as central to hockey culture, they will continue to exist on the dangerous margins of the sport with serious consequences.

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25 Things Sens Fans Should Do Before They Die

1. Sing Pageau’s name when he scores a goal
2. Make a donation to the arts and ensure the money leaves your bank account.
3. Watch a game at one of the many restaurants and bars of Sens Mile.
4. Come in hot at least once.
5. Go on the California or Florida road trip with the team.
6. Go to a costume party dressed as Cory Clouston.
7. Decorate for the playoffs.
8. Eat a burger before an Andrew Hammond start.
9. Work Radek Bonk’s name into conversation daily.
10. Make a homemade gladiator costume out of aluminum foil.
11. Take a 400 series bus to and from a home game. Make it a true Senators Daily Double and do it for a Leafs game.
12. Forget to attend a Spezza rally.
13. Stand by the door at the end of the day and fist bump all your co-workers as they leave like Chris Phillips.
14. Shout Alfie’s name when the game clock hits 11:11.
15. When you visit Montreal, sing out Pageau’s name just for fun.
16. Giggle awkwardly.
17. Live everyday like a Mark Stone celebration.
18. Mock all team slogans but secretly enjoy them.
19. Watch a game in a different city with Ottawa ex-pats.
20. Experience the joy that is exiting the largest parking lot in eastern Ontario after a game.
21. Watch a Battle of Ontario game at the ACC.
22. Drive to a playoff game at the CTC and enjoy how some fans have shown their support for the Sens by decorating the sound barriers and fencing in their backyards.
23. Spit water through the gap in your teeth like Chris Neil.
24. Paint your nails in team colours or better yet, go gold.
25. Watch Erik Karlsson live at least once in your life. Tell everyone else about it for the next 75 years.

A Hockey State of the Union

(Content warning: discussion of mental illness, addiction, substance abuse, suicide, harassment, assault, sexual assault, sexism, discrimination, Patrick Kane, Mike Ribeiro, Slava Voynov in post and links)

On the eve of a new NHL season, here are some things I’m thinking about with regards to the Senators and the league as a whole in a two-part feature. Some serious, some not, this is where I’m at with the game right now. You can read Part One here. Part Two features thoughts on Ottawa’s opposition, the NHL, and hockey more broadly.

1. Is Mike Babcock’s lucky McGill tie (the source of all his power) still lucky now that he’s traded Detroit’s (and McGill’s) red for Toronto blue?

2. Is Ottawa’s dormant rivalry with Buffalo about to heat up? The two teams have met on several occasions in the playoffs, usually play close games, and have had some infamous dust ups in the past. Add to that the Tim Murray and ex-Senators connections and things could get interesting. Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, Jack Eichel, and Sam Reinhart certainly make them watchable and potentially explosive in terms of offense and with Ottawa’s defensive issues, this could get interesting.

3. Ottawa’s hottest rivalry continues to be with the Montreal Canadiens. After another close playoff series with fresh controversies, is another early round match-up in store? I hope so. From the Ottawa perspective, it’s a much more enjoyable rivalry than some of the rivalries we’ve had in the past.

4. Aside from breaking Mark Stone’s wrist, there’s a lot to like about P.K. Subban on and off the ice. His absolutely massive donation to a children’s hospital in Montreal this month might be the best reason. He’s long been aware, and talked about the economic realities facing children who want to play hockey and has made donations to back that up. Now he’s taking care of kids off the ice too. That’s leadership.

5. I try not to make a habit of betting on players to duplicate career years. That’s not to say they can’t follow up the best year of their career with another good effort, it’s just that it’s unlikely they reach the same heights. Carey Price had a season for the ages, winning basically everything you can during the regular season. And it was well deserved. The problem for the Habs is they relied on every moment of his season to finish where they did. What happens if he’s just good and not Hart-worthy?

6. Interesting division crease battles in Toronto and Detroit. Both teams have new coaches and goalies like James Reimer and Jimmy Howard get a clean slate. In a division with Ben Bishop, Carey Prince, Tuukka Rask, and Roberto Luongo, I’ll take any goalie controversies I can get in division.

7. The crease battle I’m most looking forward to is in Dallas. The Stars are locking up more than $10M this season (and for the two seasons after that) in two goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi who are both over 30 and have consistency questions attached to their game. Should be fun.

8. Having traded Evander Kane, who will Winnipeg media blame for the inevitable slumps all teams go through this season?

9. Wayne Gretzky’s cowardice. No, I’m not talking about his recent political endorsement. After endorsing Patrick Brown for the leadership of the Ontario PC party this winter, it’s not really surprising that he endorsed Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s re-election bid last week. It wasn’t lost on people that Gretzky was endorsing a PM he had never lived under and who had disenfranchised Gretzky and over a million other expats in time for the upcoming election. Gretzky’s entitled to say want he wants and endorse whichever politician he feels like. However, he could not have sounded more out of touch on Friday when he called Harper an “unreal prime minister”.

10. No, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the fact that a man so concerned about leadership that he’d endorse two men who illustrate their lack respect for women in their respective parties’ platforms; I’m talking about a man who spent most of his pro career as a captain in the NHL; I’m talking about Gretzky’s lack of leadership when it comes to his former team. Gretzky is still influential in hockey circles and he’s not attached to another organization at the moment. Nothing is stopping him from saying how poorly the Kings handled Slava Voynov’s domestic violence arrest and conviction. But then we didn’t hear a peep out of him when Drew Doughty was under investigation for sexual assault a few years ago. Nothing is stopping him from reaching out to former teammate and current Kings President of Business Ops Luc Robitaille. You want to start endorsing leaders with damaging policies to run the province and country I live in, fine, but the spotlight will then be turned on what you’re not saying.

11. This raises the question of what should be expected from team ambassadors, those still playing and those long retired. Rocky Wirtz has been celebrated by the community for changing the culture in Chicago, reconnecting with the team’s legends and bringing them back into the fold. The problem is some players should never be elevated to such heights. That Bobby Hull continues to be held up as a face of the organization is problematic. That he has a statue outside the United Center is problematic. That his Cup win and 600 goals for Chicago are more important than multiple instances of domestic violence speaks to the true values of the organization. Nostalgia and selling merchandise are not more important than the safety of women. Lots of people will suggest that people like Hull deserves second (and third and fourth) chances and my question would be: when did a second chance become synonymous with the exact same opportunities as if nothing happened? When did a second chance start to mean continue as if nothing happened and never acknowledge that wrong?

12. A collective “we’re not tone deaf” from teams under fire. During Patrick Kane’s ill-conceived press conference last week, Chicago insisted it’s not a “tone deaf organization”. But actions like playing “I Fought the Law” during a pre-season game at the United Center or the Nashville Predators anointing Mike Ribeiro with an “A” for pre-season games was never going to be missed by fans online and across the league.

13. I agree with John McDonough that these organizations are “anything but tone deaf”. These actions aren’t accidental, they’re deliberate and designed to put the players’ needs, and to a greater extent, the organization’s goals, ahead of all other concerns. Do you think Chicago was unaware as an organization that putting Kane in front of the media to read a poorly phrased statement and thank people for their questions would communicate to their fans an assumption of Kane’s innocence? Do you think management was unaware that fans would see the organization fully behind the player, allowing Kane to use its name and clout to proclaim his innocence, and cause fans to make an assumption that he isn’t guilty? Of course they did. For a player and team alleging they wanted to respect the legal process, there sure was a lot of influencing going on. David Poile in Nashville has to be happy that there’s less scrutiny on the Ribeiro re-signing now, enough that the organization felt comfortable rewarding the veteran with some leadership points in pre-season. It’s a literal marking by the organization that Ribeiro has come full circle, is someone younger teammates can emulate. Silly or not, it is another thing fans can point to and say that Ribeiro has nothing to be sorry about at all. Teams endorse players who still have use to the organization in part because many fans will go along with it.

14. The Kings are trying to change; Pierre LeBrun has told us many times. I’m unwilling to reward the Kings for their efforts thus far and I will remain ever skeptical that this is anything but a PR move. Titled “Conduct Awareness Training Initiatives,” without concrete language and descriptions of what the program entails, it’s hard to say if it’s a step in the right direction. There are reasons to worry it’s nothing more than a “don’t get caught” lecture based on the name and Lombardi’s fixation on drug-related arrests of two former players gives this “watch who you get drunk/high with” feel. Still, the Kings have partnered with a local violence prevention centre Peace Over Violence. I don’t know enough about Peace Over Violence to properly assess the organization, but partnering with a local violence prevention group that knows the community and the problem far greater than Dean Lombardi or the Kings do is the first correct step the organization has taken in a long time.

15. There’s every indication Dean Lombardi and the rest of the Kings organization still don’t get it. Conflating drug offenses, especially drug use that is quite possibly the result of injuries suffered during play, with assault is troubling on a number of levels. It lessens the seriousness of Voynov’s assault and distracts attention from how women are treated in the NHL – as partners and fans. Lombardi’s public consternation at the Mike Richards case in particular seems that the biggest crime committed by any King in 2014-15 in Lombardi’s eyes was being betrayed by a player he loved. A lot of his response to these charges frames the issues around how they’ve impacted Dean and that’s so far beyond the point that I question Lombardi’s continued role in righting these wrongs.

16. The NHL recently implemented new security measured league-wide. I’ve written about my concerns with these changes before and don’t want to rehash those points except to say the league’s refusal to act against DV/SA and respect female fans illustrates those security measures aren’t about safety if there was still any doubt. The NHL does not care about the safety of women. With the NHL insisting they don’t need to develop league-wide policy to prevent and address violence against women (they do), teams need to develop their own policies. The right policy will provide a clear framework for possible discipline, but it might actually prevent such incidents from occurring because it starts a conversation that changes minds and behaviours. Teams need to implement this at every level of their organization (minor league affiliates) and apply it to the office side of things too. That’s a level of commitment beyond PR. You need to step up here, Ottawa.

17. The Kings don’t have the right policy because the right policy is completely transparent. The NHL and its teams hate transparency; salary terms are often not released, injury details are hidden. At every step this league tries to control information and that’s a problem. By not providing more information than is absolutely necessary, it allows teams and the league to bend and ignore the rules to suit their needs. If this is really about concrete action and centring victims, SA/DV policy needs to be developed and implemented in consultation with third party experts who are not subject to team restrictions, policy, and oversight. They need to hand over the reins.

18. It’s part of NHL culture to victim blame and this needs to change. I’ve written about this before, but it deserves restating. It happens in game when players are injured. If a player is hit hard from behind, talking heads will squawk that he turned at the last second and put himself in a vulnerable position. If a player suffers a concussion, he’s told to keep his head up. It’s a lot easier to blame a player who’s suffered an injury than take a step back and really examine the way the game’s played and officiated, and the culture it creates. Is it any wonder NHL fans feel so comfortable victim blaming when attention turns to off ice issues? This is how we do things in this sport and it needs to stop.

19. The league’s collective failure on these issues is alienating, discouraging, and wearing on female fans. Women are simply tired of the league reinforcing how little they value them. It’s not about special treatment, it’s about the respect people of all genders deserve when attending a game and participating in hockey fandom. This is hurting our game.

20. Early chatter about next September’s World Cup of Hockey. I have issues with the NHL’s involvement in the Olympics but in general, international hockey is fun and we need more of it. Gary Bettman and the NHL love to bill these events as growing the game. My question is: why can’t we also have a Women’s World Cup of Hockey in addition to a Men’s World Cup of Hockey? European countries will invest more in women’s hockey if there’s more marquee events to participate in and a Canada-USA final just helps build excitement about hockey generally. With the NWHL joining the CWHL this season the interest in women’s hockey is growing. The NHL hasn’t been a big supporter of women’s hockey in general and the CWHL/NWHL in particular. For whatever reason growing the women’s game doesn’t make financial sense to the NHL. It’s yet another mistake and another sign of disrespect.

21. Former NHLer Todd Ewan died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on the weekend. Another suicide and it’s not being talked about enough. Say what you want about the recently retired Dan Carcillo, but his desire to help players transition to post-playing life is a good thing. It’s easy to feel not the least bit sympathetic for athletes who have trouble with retirement. After all, they knew it was coming, got to stop working a lot earlier than most people, and made a lot of money. This is of course true but doesn’t change the fact that we are consistently seeing cases of athletes who have trouble transitioning and what they need is empathy, support, and some solutions. Injuries, especially head injuries, and mental illness make this move harder. Best of luck to Carcillo, because this cycle of violence and anguish needs to end too.

22. The consequences of being an enforcer, of being a tough player, of fighting in hockey have been talked about a lot. But I wonder if we’ve missed another motivation in some of the cases. Head trauma obviously is of great importance here and I’m no expert on CTE or related traumas. But I know what it feels like to feel unloved and unliked, to be depressed. I know that so often it feels like no one can see you when you feel like that. I’ve played on teams and felt invisible to my teammates. I can see how a concrete action like standing up for the star player makes it impossible for your teammates to ignore you, forces them to see you. Gives you a concrete sense of your worth and their affection for you with all the fist bumps and high fives you receive. I can see how being hit or punched would give you something to center your pain on, or even just let you feel something again. I can see how that role would appeal to people with pre-existing mental illness. What I’m saying is we need better resources for mental illness in the minors and in junior hockey as well as the NHL. We need to talk about how signs of anxiety and depression manifest in sports and we need to watch out for them and reach out to players. We need to be vigilant. We need to provide support. We need to do better.

23. This is a liminal moment for my fandom. I don’t think I’m alone in that. The competing forces are seen in the competing forces of this piece. A new season is near and on the one side there’s jokes, concerns about my team, and questions about where the Sens fit when stacked against the competition. These are logical, acceptable, and typical things to be concerned about. It’s what fans are supposed to be preoccupied by. But then there’s the building storm, of disrespect and discrimination, of violence and sexual assault. It feels like this is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. But I can’t give up something I love right now and I won’t be made to go away or stop talking about it. There are many in the hockey community with a stronger resolve. This league with eventually, grudgingly, angrily submit and change.