Tag Archives: gionta

The Life and Times of Ryan Carter’s Moustache

About 11 months ago, giddy after the Devils OT win over the Rangers to move on to the Stanley Cup Finals, I decided that Ryan Carter’s moustache needed its own web site. The turning point for me was in Game 5, which I was forced to watch at the Sports Page in Mountain View, California (a dive bar that used to be a true dump before it was given the implicit upgrade of being near the Googleplex). Carter scored a monster goal and I tipped the bartender an integer multiple of the price of the Mountain Dew I used to wash down the remainder of my garlic fries as a thank-you for putting the game on just for my cheering pleasure. Carter’s playoff ‘stache was a statement, a symbol, a beacon of hope, and quite possibly an entire 11th grade English essay waiting to be written. In my case, it led me to stay up until 2am creating a web site in its honor.

Fast forward one foreshortened hockey season, and there is no playoff joy in New Jersey, no Devilish moustaches to rival that of our own mascot, nothing to do but jeer the Rangers and wish for hope to spring eternal in Boston. I’m retiring Carter’s stache-site, and present my attempts to write under a more amusing “nom de stache.” At this point, I’ll do anything for a hockey laugh.

Better Than A Beard (May 26, 2012)

Hi, I’m Ryan Carter’s moustache, and I’m going to the Stanely Cup Finals. Who needs a beard when you can rock the upper lip like me? I’m the most famous 16 hairs in hockey.

I’m the Frosty the Snowman of the hockey springtime: here now, down the drain only when the time is right.

My Favorite Moustaches (May 26, 2012)

Best moustache on the team: NJ Devil, by a longshot. I mean, our mascot has a porn moustache that’s nearly 3 feet wide. Clarkson might be second.

Best moustache in hockey: George Parros, Anaheim Ducks. Long before it was fashionable, and he does good charity work. Makes me proud. Certainly the most erudite stache on ice.

Best LA Kings moustache: Wil Wheaton, Kings fan, actor and writer. Love that guy (I’m a huge fan of Eureka and the Guild, okay? Need to watch something on those cross-country flights).

Fear, Stick, and Poke (May 26, 2012)

What I’m afraid of: high sticks (need to shave to get stitches in there, ask Zubbie), Gillette, Shick and Norelco products.

What fears me: Are you kidding? Henrik Lundqvist is going to have bad dreams about my hirsuite heft in front of him all summer long. 4th line on the ice, first on the upper lip.

Christmas in May (May 26, 2012)

Two of them, actually.

May is the best – for me, it’s that time of year when you’ve survived the first round of the playoffs, you know you’re not going to be some short-term, hair today-gone tomorrow affair, but the real deal. A playoff beard for those making a statement, or incapable of making more facial hair. Either way, when the rest of the world is cleaning up for the beach or graduation or whatever other warmer weather pursuits entertain, I’m looking to go public. Not like Facebook, of course.

Close runner-up: November. Exactly six months away. Start of hockey season, when normally I’d be in hibernation, forgotten on the other end of vacation, camps, and early season predictions by The Hockey News that are completely useless. November is the more formal name for Movember, the annual campaign to raise awareness for prostate and other men’s cancers.

For me, it’s like Christmas in June, because May is more like Christmas. Henrique said that last night on-ice? Rook steals all my lines.

Kovy the Krank (June 1, 2012)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Kovy is just hilarious, sticking a tab of smelling salts right there in front of me. I’ve never been shoved into a urinal cake, but you get the idea. Pungent stuff. Harsh. Tangy. Kind of like Josefson’s gear. You spend your whole existence under Carter’s nose, you pick these things up.

The practical joker on this team was Gomez. Never played with him, but he thought he was pretty funny when he tried giving Patty a haircut. Look where that got him — Gomez has no hair now and scored one goal in what, a hundred games? Not that I’m wishing anything bad on Kovy, he’s a good guy, and he’s here for the duration, but these little stunts go both ways.

I’m getting Master Carter to replace Kovy’s pre-game playlist with the very best of Verka Serduchka:

Jump, jump indeed – what goes around the bench, Kovy…..

One At A Time (June 6, 2012)

One game at a time.

One shift at a time.

One shot at a time.

One facial hair at a time.

The difference in Game 4? Henrique decided that I’m the epitome of power, and trimmed up to match up. And he scored another game winner.

Even The Fans Voice thinks I’m funny.

Brothers In Arms (And Lips And Hair) (June 7, 2012)

As a player, or at least part of a player for part of the season, I’m not supposed to “make friends” with the media. Unbiased communications and independent thought and transparency and other SAT words (hey, I know the SAT, I went to Minnesota State Mankato, or at least Ryan did and I made the rare appearance at a frat party…).

But I just love Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. He’s frank and funny and frankly funny most of the time. I wouldn’t mind having a locker stall next to his. If he could skate, that is. He’s like a rare combination of John Scalzi and, well, Bob Woodward. And he most definitely appreciates the finer strands of facial hair.

Must-read post-game commentary on Henrique following me to moustache-ville. Then again, if someone said highlighting your hair would bring luck, Henrique would do that too and then go score another big goal. Oh wait, that was Elias like five years ago. Both good guys, both came up big last night.

What I need to know is: Why isn’t anyone interviewing NJ Devil about his ‘stache? Right — he can’t talk, he’s the mascot. Like those body puppets in Disneyland but with a totally bad-ass attitude and cheerleaders who follow him around (so totally not LA it’s laughable). He started this whole thing in 1999, the year the Devils decided he needed to look more like Tom Selleck and less like a normal mascot.

Not Buying It (June 7, 2012)

Not hockey related. Mostly not.

A very hip Euro-bud (not Patty, Sykie, Zubie or anyone else wearing horns, k?) pointed me at a goatee shaving template. People are that spastic?

Then I thought about all of those Rangers fans leaving the Garden during the playoffs, and it kind of made sense — if you’re drunk enough, I guess a little plastic screen to keep you from looking like you were the subject of a frat prank is useful. And it probably prevents some folks from accidentally shaving off their noses, although the way the Garden smells, being nasally challenged might be a suitable win.

I Am Not Afraid (June 9, 2012)

I have no fear (mostly because I have no glands to generate whatever hormones are associated with fear, being made of hair, that is). But I have no fear of ending up in the wastebasket in my bathroom, or washed down the drain with some Barbasol. I am a bigger stache than that. Lo, though I skate through the San Fernando valley of overpaid acting talent and bad officiating, I fear not, because Gionta is with me (and he’s way bushier).

But seriously, the way people are carrying on about the 3-1 games advantage you’d think we were Napoleon planning to invade the KHL. The “1% chance of winning after 3-0” and “9% chance after 3-1” deficits are historical averages, not representative of a game played in the here and now. You can’t even look at it like a series of coin flips, hoping it comes up heads four times in a row. Coin flips are independent, the next doesn’t care about the results of the last (except in some weird sci-fi stuff that Zubie reads on trips to Canada, but that’s another story).

Successive hockey games are dependent trials. You win one, get the other guys off their stride, playing your way, making adjustments, and you improve your chances of winning the next. So if it’s 3-1, then it’s 3-2, guess what? 3-3 looks a lot more reasonable. One game, one period, one shift, one shot at a time.

Want to be afraid? If this series goes the distance, Game 7 will be made into the newest Hollywood horror flick called “Wednesday the 14th”. If Goon got to production, so can this one. I, of course, will have a cameo playing myself. Don’t tell Ryan that means I’m sticking around for the off-season. He’ll be afraid (and itchy).

Down The Drain (June 15, 2012)

“Ignominy” is such a great SAT word. Really is. And I even had a new definition for it: ending up in an interceptor pipe in Southern California, getting washed out with the sewage, loose hair and bad movie ideas that spring from the Hollywood Hills. Sigh. It was a great run, and I’m proud of my teammates for what we accomplished, as well as for truly appreciating the beauty of the singular stache when the playoff beard seems overdone.

To the fans: thank you for cheering until the last horn. For those of you (especially the ladies) who sported moustaches, I’ll only repeat what my mom said: Don’t do that to your face or you’ll look like that for the rest of your life. But stache-bearing fans are always welcome at our games. To Kevin Clark, the best arena announcer of any sport, I know my name doesn’t give you much to work with unlike a Zubrus or that eye-chart Kovulchuk, but thanks for belting me out with the pride and energy you bring to every day of your job.

July 1st I’m a free agent, but that’s a business for agents and laywers and GMs and other non-mustacioed people. I think this team has another deep run in it, and there’s nothing I would love more than to re-appear, Tony Blundetto like, on a moist April day in Newark. For now, kids, get those beach bodies in shape, forget about (hockey) life for just a little while, and don’t forget to wave those towels.

Hockey Is Back

Hockey is back, and despite all of the bad feelings during the lockout, I’m loving it. Devils win, Flyers lose, Rangers lose.

I watched the Penguins-Flyers game just to bark at the Flyers in a warm up for the Devils home opener on Tuesday.

I’ve made up my first nickname of the season – the Kovulchuk-Zajac-Zubrus line shall be known as the Scrabble Line (total value 63, and only Valeri Zelepukin would be worth more than Zajac, based only consonant placement and not puck control).

It’s great seeing the big fourth line from the playoffs — the CBGB (Carter Bernier and Gionta’s Brother) line — back as the third line, and rookie Stefan Matteau anchoring the fourth line. Marty looks like the rest and late start served him well. Patrik Elias’ “skating age” is much younger than his chronological 36 and change. Zid looks stronger than the beginning of last season. Travis Zajac is still the man.

Everything hockey related is clearly rust-tinted. A line’s worth of Devils making sloppy passes. msg.com website was down for an hour. NHL’s scoreboard didn’t provide any updates for most of the evening. And some things never change – the MSG Network Islanders announcers still cannot pronounce Patrik Elias’ name properly, which is both disrespectful to Patty and their own profession.

Ryan Sutter-Zach Parise are a combined -2 in their Minnesota debut. I guess $194 million doesn’t go as far as it did pre-lockout. Maybe they’ll realize that Heatley isn’t the same kind of playmaker as Zajac or Elias.

#hockeyisback people. Loudness ensues.

Round Three

The Devils win four in a row to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in nine years. There aren’t that many bills I look forward to getting, and Round 3 Stanley Cup Playoff tickets set the bar pretty high.

Where do you start being proud of this team, as a fan? Playing hard every shift, consistently sticking to a system? Avoiding retaliatory penalties, even when Rinaldo, Giroux and Simmonds were dirtier than the bathroom in a South Street Philadelphia bar at three in the morning (they’ll have plenty of time to verify my comparison now). Marty not being at all fazed playing the puck, even under pressure? Stephen Gionta hitting about a foot larger than he stands? Kovulchuk’s power play goal, coming from Zubrus winning a monster faceoff in the zone? Even JR gave Kovy props in the post-game.

It starts behind the bench, with DeBoer retaining his composure through every situation. Compare him to Tortorella, who must be nursing a sore throat by the midway point of most games, or Laviolette, who pouts, frowns and gesticulates like he’s a marionette whose strings are wrapped around a drill bit. Up and down the coaching staff, you can see the development of the younger plays, the poise that the playoff newbies have exuded, and how every player focuses on every small detail.

This team is fun to watch. And we get to watch for at least another round of playoffs.

The Value of Pie

No, not 3.14159 or circumference divided by diameter or even the real but irrational part of the natural logarithm of -1 (e to the i pi references rule). Something natural, real, rational and not subject to circular arguments.

It’s not even a thinly veiled reference to my favorite high school hockey goalie, best known for saying “Mr. Stern, I like pie” at least a few times.

I’m talking about the value of a pie in the face, the Yankee’s informal ritual celebrating a walk-off hit that began sometime last season. Last night was the first pie plate-at-the-plate appearance of the relatively young season, marking Marcus Thames as a pie-zon. It wasn’t just seeing A-Rod jumping up and down and being first on the third base line to wave Thames in. It wasn’t the delight in seeing Papelbon get dinged for a pair of gopher balls in the bottom on the 9th (although that made up for Chan Ho Park looking like he came off the disabled list to join the incapable list). It was the fact that the Yankees are having fun in public, and they make it looks easy as, well, pie.

There is immense value in team chemistry, and having fun in sports. It was the watchword of my all-time baseball hero Willie Stargell: It is supposed to be fun. The man says “Play ball” not “Work ball”. When the pies started flying, the Yankees fortunes on the field seemed to similarly alight. It’s something to which the Devils should pay close attention, especially if Rich Chere’s comments from Brian Gionta are within the circle of possibly explaining the Devils’ post-season collapses.

It’s just fun to watch athletes having fun. The best post game interview is one given behind a veil of cream.

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NHL Center Ice Package: I’m Sold

I broke down and ordered the NHL Center Ice package tonight. It was actually a Facebook conversation with a co-worker that convinced me it was worth the $172 for the next six months, or as he put it, less than the cost of going to two games. My interest started with a sincere interest in seeing Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez take on the Bruins tonight. What I got was a lingering taste of the seven-plus years Mrs. Snowman and I spent in the Boston suburbs, channeling NESN on a 17-inch TV. It’s still NESN carrying the Bruins home game, but it’s in HD — a little bit of old school Boston sports mixed with geographic diversity. Given that all of the out of market games are redirections of local coverage, I’m looking forward to getting to know the broadcast voices of the Lightning, Canadiens, Ducks, Hawks and perhaps the Flyers, as I follow some brand name as well as lesser-known but fun to watch players (Halpern, Powe and Parros, along with Madden, Toews, Gomez, Cammalleri and Gionta).

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Ou Sonts Les Habitants?

OK, my French is horrendous, my high school French teacher wants to rescind the award that she gave me upon graduation for “excellence in studies” and L’Academie Francaise is going to put a contract out on my tongue. Quelle frommage.

I don’t get the hockey writer’s negative sentiment about the Canadiens this season. Sure, goaltending is a question mark, but as Scott Clemmenson showed last season, scoring goals and playing as a team outweighs having a Vezina in the cabinet. Their top line of Gomez, Cammalleri and Gionta is far from the biggest in the NHL but it’s going to put up a lot of goals. If nothing else, they win the diversity award for having a Jewish guy with an Italian surname (yes, Cammalleri is a menorah man) and a Latino turning Francophone.

I think the Bruins-Canadiens games are going to return to the all-out, end to end, blood lust grudge matches of years ago. And those games may end up deciding who wins the Northeast Conference. I’m not a hockey writer, nor do I play one on TV or even on this blog, but I think the conventional wisdom is neither when it comes to the Habs this year.

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Free Agency Bubble in Montreal

Imagine this scenario: you buy a big house, because the market is hot and you had a good year over the past twelve months. And a year or two later, your income is down, the overall housing market is down, and you’re saddled with those mortgage and tax payments, and start looking for places to scrimp. Sound familiar? I think Bob Gainey is going to be in that position next year. The NHL’s salary cap barely budged this year, but it’s an historical measure — it reflects last year’s financials, not the coming year’s anticipated revenue streams. As Lou has pointed out, and others have weighed in, next year’s NHL salary cap is likely to be lower. I know I’m paying 55% of what I paid the last two seasons for my 09-10 Devils season ticket share. Multiply that across the league, mix thoroughly with an ugly economy, and spin with the spinning of free agency that has made player jersey replicas a bad short-term investment, and cap economics becomes a bin-packing problem of the first order next year.

All that said, I’m eager to see how things play out avec les habitants. They picked up a $7M+ contract on Gomez (5′ 11″), added $6M a year for Cammalleri (5′ 9″) and another $5M for Gionta (5′ 7″), plus equally large deals on Spacek and Gill. That means the starting five skaters will soak up about half of the salary cap, and Montreal will skate one of the shortest and most likely most expensive per linear foot top lines in the NHL. I’m not dinging any of the players; I think they all got good deals or are sticking to deals that allowed them to be traded (viz, Gomez, pay attention, Heatley).

I’m going to miss Brian Gionta – scrappy, well-spoken, creative, and a role model for hard work on and off the ice. I think Gomez might thrive in Montreal, away from what was effectively a “stick it, Lou” move to the Rangers, and Cammalleri showed he changes longitude and latitude well and with outstanding production. But I keep reflecting on the 1997 Marlins – brought together to win a championship, and then scattered by financial and market forces. I hope the free agency bubble floats Montreal in the next season, because Gainey has just taken out a big mortgage on their future.

Winner, Seven

Another in a continuing series of craps references while writing about hockey….

I gave it my all in the last 10 days as a Devils fan. I had scores texted to me so that they were waiting when I landed in strange, horrible, anti-hockey (and anti-people) airports like Charles de Gaul in Paris; I stayed up until 3:00 AM listening to last Friday’s game from South Africa; I had the pilot on my Continental flight from Mumbai radio ahead to get the score of Game 5 (and bless him, it was good news, or there wasn’t enough cheap booze on board to keep me from going non-linear). But through this all, I did not repeat the superstitions, the rituals, the motions, the minor religious observances that truly mark me as a fan of the Devil. Bubba and I will not be denied tomorrow night.

Patrik Elias Russian jersey (for me) and Czech jersey (for Bubba): ready.

Czech flag to wave triumphantly when Elias connects: folded neatly.

Proper t-shirt underlayment for above-mentioned jerseys: ready, and already being worn (me in Devils Elias jersey tee, Bubba in the whats-a-matter-Sioux Notre Dame hockey tee)

Diet of chicken fingers, Carvel ice cream, and pretzels: already saving calories for tomorrow night’s intake.

Does any of this matter? Of course it does. Sports mixes belief and intent in a unique way; players believe that they can (or they can’t, as evidenced by Colin White’s complete refusal to move his feet last night) and carry that belief into a melange of physics and passion. From intent and belief it’s only a small (vertical) leap to ritual and religion, passing by tradition on the way to fervor in believing our actions affect what happens on the ice.

This minor insanity runs deep with me. As captain of the high school math team (stop laughing) I carried a small alabaster egg in my jeans pocket for every competition. I did it once, and we won, and after that it was accepted practice (along with the playing of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird the night before – don’t ask). In 2003, Bubba insisted that the Devils hadn’t score a goal in Game 7 of the Cup Finals because we had failed to eat a pretzel at the intermission. I ran out to the concourse, picked up a soggy excuse for a pretzel, and minutes late the Devils scored – we threw the ends of the pretzel into the rows behind us, possibly into the laps of unhappy Ducks fans, and for once felt no guilt about wasting food (even Meadowlands fare). The Devils have not lost a game at the Prudential Center when Bubba and I are both there. Not even down two goals to Tampa Bay, with their energy and division lead seemingly draining away, did the Devils fail to deliver on their end of the disconnected cause and effect (our last game at the Rock, April 3).

Joshua Prager’s The Echoing Green weaves the story of Morty Rothschild into that of Bobby Thomson and Ralph Branca during the last game of their 1951 baseball playoff game, the season in the balance. With his beloved New York Giants losing in the bottom of the ninth, Rothschild left the ballpark, considering that the Giants had never lost a game he’d listened to on his car radio. And so Thomson’s “shot heard round the world” was heard by Rothschild over the air waves, not seen in person. But his team had won, his own superstitious behavior no doubt contributing, from his point of view, to the team’s come from behind victory and the pennant. The rational among us dismiss such behavior as irrational and physically impossible, as well as statistically improbable and mildly irritating.

Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman, a noted molecular biologist, was asked to speak about evolution and its detractors. Her comments in the speech The Assault on Evolution do not dismiss viewpoints that some see as irrational or physically impossible, but rather explain that “science and religion are merely two different manifestations of the human experience.” We all see and hear the same events on the ice; we slam into our seat-mates with the same feelings; we choose our own interpretations of the causes of those effects.

We know the science: chemistry that causes ice to form a miniscule layer of water beneath Gionta’s skate blades; elastic collisions between Elias’ stick and the puck; inelastic collisions between pucks and Oduya’s shin pads; optics of the red light behind Cam Ward; wave mechanics of 16,000 screaming fans.

We know the religion: pandemonium, the time of all demons, the house of all possible Devils.

Tomorrow night, we dance this dance one more time, mentally and physically prepared for our role as fans.

Let’s go Devils.

1980 Over My Shoulder

I’ve been looking for a bit of writing inspiration lately — blogging has been slow, I haven’t had the energy or creativity to devote to working on the hockey book, and work has been, well, more than a job. Perhaps it was the rainy day today, or perhaps it was the fact that I got the urge to clean up my office (it happens, usually once every 3 or 4 months). About two years ago I managed to find an autographed 1980 Olympic Men’s Hockey Team jersey, with silver autographs of gold medal winners, all save the late Herb Brooks. There was a fairly large set of them released around the 25th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice, and one ended up in my jersey collection. I finally had it framed for my birthday this year (thanks to my mother in law) and it quite simply looks nicer than the motley collection of Devils swag on my “jersey wall.” As much as I like my BC jersey with Gionta’s handwriting, the Jay Pandolfo jersey I won in a raffle, the Patrik Elias jersey with a really funny autograph (before he got serious about signing his name) and a Scott Gomez/Jamie Langenbrunner dueling penmanship sample, they just didn’t “feel” right.

The Talking Heads’ David Byrne once said that art is something you should rotate, something you should like, not permanently mount on your wall as if it’s part of the building. I think jerseys fit that profile even more tightly than paintings or posters; jerseys each tell a story, have a life or a background, give you a snapshot of time and space. Give or take a few years, the Miracle on Ice marked the first third of my life; becoming a father to a son who would later help me rekindle my passion for hockey marked the second third. There’s a nice symmetry in that, and perhaps the backwards looking perspective will get me motivated to work on the next big forward looking projects.

Sometimes you need to change your focus, and that’s what I did in hanging the 1980 sweater over my left shoulder.

Size Up The Middle

I got to catch about half of last nights Rangers-Devils pre-season game; even given modern technology I had to put the game on DVR and get to synagogue live. I missed Weekes getting hurt, and the first two Rangers goals, but what I saw after that gave me hope and a bit of a smile. Realizing that pre-season games in the NHL mean even less than they do in the NFL, I try not to read too much into events. But there were bright spots last night (other than the over/under on the rabbi’s annual list-making coming in at 6 and not 8 items)

Vishnevski is a big boy. Bad news: bloggers will have to learn to spell his surname. Good news: it’s because he’ll be dumping smaller centers and wingers on their highly efficient Reebok-reinforced rear ends. My wife’s family’s name was Vishnevski before someone on Ellis Island truncated it, and both #2 on the Devils and #1 in our house come from the same part of the Ukraine. So I’ve taken to calling Vishnevski “cousin”, lending a distinctly Perfect Strangers air to my in-game ranting. Even if we’re not related, I’m going to cheer for him. Loudly.

Zubrus is a bigger boy. Hello, forecheck. Last season I could have counted the number of times the Devils made the extra effort to hold the puck in the attack zone on one plate of Meadowlands chicken fingers; last night they were a forecheck on fire. Zubrus in particular just controlled the flow. It’s not just that Rafalksi and Gomez weren’t making bad, blind passes or failing to keep their sticks down; it was intentional, positional hockey at its best.

Gionta could score from the press box. Yeah, it was against the number three or four goalie, and yeah, it was late in the third period, but what a goal. Valiquette wasn’t faked out of his jock; he didn’t know anything had happened until there was that rocket’s red glare behind him. With some puck control (see above), Gio might break his own goal record this year.

There are still some rough edges, like who plays in the third defensive pairing and where precisely Brylin will end up. My advice (such as it is) is to take Sergei off of the checking line, and replace him with someone with more size (Clarkson), and maybe match up Brylin with Parise and Zajac until Langenbrunner’s leg is glued back on. And of course, everything changes in tone once the Lowell Devils head back to Beantown and the season’s first roster is set. And I can’t wait.