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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Guest Writer: ¿Qué es el “Hockey”?

In the beginning, there was Arroz con Pollo. Then there was hockey. Or “El Jockey”, as my mom calls it to this day. What follows is a little anecdote about growing up being a hockey playing fan in a first-generation 1990's Colombian household. Sound weird? Well yes, it was a mucho weirdo journey indeed…

My parents moved us to the U.S. when I was 7 years old. I eventually learned English in school but like any normal South American kid, I grew up on a steady diet of Fútbol and horribly addicting TV Novelas on Telemundo. Back then, we had just the one TV set and certainly no cable, so Madre and Padre picked what my sister and I watched, listened to, and clothed ourselves in. No ifs, ands or buts. I had no clue about American sports, music or pop culture until the time I hit middle school.

When I was 13, two universe-altering things entered my life: I was introduced to Metallica, and later, to floor hockey via phys ed. I fell in love with both on the spot. In that fateful awkward year, I morphed into a braces-wearing, tomboy-ish headbanger geek (think a chubby version of Darlene from Roseanne) and needless to say, I got picked on a lot. Aside from an innately weird sense of humor and the pleasure procured from always kicking the prissy girls’ asses in gym class, it was my love for hockey that really got me through those stereotypically miserable years.

On school nights, while occasionally doing homework, I listened to every Rangers games on my AM/FM Walkman radio. I actually looked forward to school the next morning, eagerly in fact, to talk about the game with my hockey buddies in Home Room. In math class, we used to draw the Rangers logo on our arms in pen ink out of boredom. My most memorable moment EVER was purposefully rushing through the questions (and almost failing) my English Regents* exam in June of 1994 because it got in the way of us making it to the Rangers Stanley Cup Parade that morning. My friend Aaron and I made it to the Bowling Green subway stop with just enough time to run up the stairs, sprint a few blocks, and catch the float as it passed by with Lord Stanley’s Cup hoisted above Mess’s head. So worth it!

Eventually I started playing roller hockey with the neighborhood boys and, to my mother’s delight, I would come home with my fingers all smashed up, bloody knuckles, scraped knees and elbows. Fuck pads and gloves, we thought. I cannot tell you how many times I got grounded or punished for this. Colombian girls don’t play boys’ sports. We’re supposed to be dainty and pretty and watch beauty pageants and get good grades. Not me. I just never fit that traditional, I mean boring, mold…

Thankfully I got good grades all through school, and it took my mom a few years to realize that hockey-love wasn’t just a phase. With Dad out of the picture at this point, I think she figured out that playing this sport kept me out of trouble and made me a stronger person despite all the bruises I used to bring home. Eventually she started liking the sport because it was, as she called it, “Fútbol on Ice,” and to my surprise, it was she who bought me my first pair of ice hockey skates and my first ice hockey equipment bag.

At this point we lived in Long Island, and being poor as hell with no car, had to bus it everywhere**, but somehow I made it to the rinks after school to get as much ice time as possible. The Cantiague Park P.A.L. Wednesday night men’s league “adopted” me as their “little sister” and I got to play for free every week. I cut my teeth, as they say, on the ice with Nassau County’s finest

Through the years, I have made most of my good friends around the sport and evenwhen not playing for long stretches at time, I always find myself going back to it. It even gave me the most entertaining job I ever had for three years after College — I worked for the New York Islanders and got to meet many interesting characters (next time I’ll tell you about the time Zdeno Chara and I went to the Empire State Building***). Oh yes I have so, so, so many stories…

However, I’ll end my story here, but will thank you for reading if you got to this point. Thanks to '94 Parade for letting me share this because to this day, I’m pretty sure I am still the only Colombian chick that plays hockey in Queens, maybe even all of New York City. But if any of you out there know of any other Colombian girls who do, please let me know, it’d be great to compare notes, and bruises, with someone else who’s traveled the same path...

*Regents exams are mandatory in NYC, you must pass them in order to pass the school year.
**If anyone that has lived in Long Island can attest to this, public transportation out there is a fucking joke.
***True story.

By Sandra Ximena

Monday, December 5, 2011

Guest Writer: What's It Like To Be A Rangers Fan Stuck in the South? Better Now That We're Winning...

I frequently have to admit that I very much live in the wrong part of the country to be an avid hockey fan - south Mississippi. It's football country, and there's no escaping the pigskin preference. On Fridays, the talk of the town is high school football. On Saturdays, college (and lucky me, I live in a college town. They won their championship today, whoop-di-do.) Of course, Sundays and Monday nights bring the NFL (along with a facebook news feed inundated with cries of “Who Dat?” With New Orleans only about 90 miles away, I can't escape it!) Despite the fact that I an part of an overwhelming minority, my love of hockey, and the Rangers in particular, is unwavering. For 17 years I've watched the game and tried to discuss it with with anyone who will listen. Around here, that's not too many people.

Well, with that brief introduction and short rant out of the way, all I've got to say is, “Holy CRAP, is this how it feels to like a team that's more than just mediocre?!” If so, I am LOVING it! We're a quarter of the way through the season and the Rangers are ranked third in the league. It's all so new and emotionally confusing. All of this “solid team effort” stuff, it's been crazy to watch for a fan base that always expects to hit inevitable speed bumps. Rangers fans are used to one or two consistent guys who are inevitably going to get injured in late January. It's insane. At the start of the season, I talked and talked (to anybody around me who would listen, which I already explained totals about four people) about how I had high hopes for our Blueshirts this year. But let's face it, I say that every year. Every new season brings me promise and then pitfalls. This year though, our wishes seem to be the Rangers' command.

So to be a little more specific and a little less fan-girl, let's discuss the specifics further. Callahan came out of the gate proving that he was meant to lead and hasn't slowed down since. I would love to see Lundqvist with the “C”, but as a self professed goalie groupie up against the NHL's official rules, my biased opinion was certainly improbable. Cally's play has been physical and aggressive without being distracting, and his 10 goals on the season so far are tied with Richards for second most on the team. Gaborik leads the team with 12 tallys after deciding to show up for the games this year. A healthy Gaborik is a huge plus for our offense, despite how infuriating he could be at times last year. Richards seems to be doing exactly what the Rangers are paying him for - generating excitement and masterminding our offensive output. He sets up plays just as well as he puts pucks in the net.

After last year's break-out season, Dubinsky has disappointed some people with his numbers so far. Despite not scoring the goals we'd like to expect from him, he still plays an insanely solid game and has made some key assists in big spots. Plus, with Stepan streaking his way to superstar status, nobody seems to be dwelling too much on Dubinsky. Prust also isn't doing much offensively, but he still knows how to get things going and bring the energy level up to 11. Philly game, 4 seconds in, dropping the gloves? That's what I'm freaking talking about. That's what a real Ranger does when his team needs a spark. How about this Carl Hagelin kid? Where'd this kid come from? Wait, who cares, he's fast and he's talented, along with his fellow Whale linemate Mitchell. As of right now, there are only two Rangers on the roster who haven't scored a goal this season, and each of them has an excuse (Wolski is on IR, and Stralamn's only suited up for one game in a blueshirt). We've been getting contributions from multiple players and multiple lines game in and game out this season, and clearly, it's a system that works. Even Biron has been nearly perfect in his starts because let's face it, we fans need to blame our whole team for that lackluster effort displayed in Montreal a couple weeks back. I could go on, but for the sake of not boring anyone, I think I've made my point - we're now a damn good hockey team.

It's still early, but dare I hope that this year may be different? Maybe come April I can look forward to something other than a disappointing, yet totally expected, first round exit. Maybe 17 years of torture and heartbreak will pay off in early June. I know I can, but I don't really want to deal with another manic, roller coaster ride of a season. Sure, I'll just be back in the same place next season even if the roof collapses on our seemingly promising season, but it sure would be nice to have something to brag about for a change. Please, boys in blue? Consider it the Christmas wish of a misplaced hockey fan stuck in pigskin country.

By Kelly Caldwell

Friday, December 2, 2011

Snap Shot: Sean Avery Sleeping With Teammate's Girlfriend Rumor

Opening sentence overused joke alert - It looks like Sean Avery could once again be on the wrong side of a sloppy seconds situation. For the record, this is nothing more than a rumor put out there by some dickbag on twitter with deplorable grammar and unsubstantiated source-citing. His name is Incarcerated Bob, and he’s one cocky bastard. Unfortunately for our currently chemistry-laden team, cocky bastards sometimes base their confidence on being correct. Given the player in question and his pension for poonani, this is one rumor that could catch fire fast in a marketplace ripe with Sean Avery-haters. Let’s examine…

After last night’s 5-3 win over the Hurricanes, a game in which Avery scored his third goal of the season (and received a lot praise from the press in the process), we were all on cloud nine. Winning streaks left and right with literally everyone short of the back-up goalie putting their name on the score sheet night after night. Umm, is this fake life? Mirage or not, I thought, I’m going to enjoy this I-root-for-a-good-team feeling!

Wait, hold that. Here comes Incarcerated Bob with a couple tweets about a confrontation between Avery and an unnamed teammate about philandering fornication and the whole world goes insane. I’d never even heard of this ex-con wannabe until another fan-run Rangers facebook page (though I’m obviously much more than a facebook page) posted the rumor. Within the hour, I had my opinion set. Here’s how I’d break it down…

A trustworthy twitter friend told me that this dude throws shit against the wall all day long without naming sources and about 20% of it ends up happening. If you question his methods or integrity, you get blocked. I put in the “follow” request, saw the tweets myself, saw his general demeanor, and saw his “I’ve been on Boomer & Carton” caption (also heard he’s been banned from calling because of his rumor-mongering). Despite the seemingly sketchy nature of this twitter-based source (trying not to laugh), I have to admit that I’m scared it’s all true. I don’t know it or think it, I FEAR it. Sean Avery could definitely do this kind of thing. Despite the fact that he’s a fan favorite and pays proper lip-service when it comes to “his love of this team”, he’s still flesh-and-blood and a known womanizer. I wouldn’t put it past him, but I think we, as fans, all expect better from him. He’s supposed to embody the personality of this team, and I think it’s fair to say that we don’t envision that true Ranger as a white Tiger Woods fashionisto on skates.

Adding fuel to the fire is the extremely odd interaction that seemed to occur between Avery and Michael Del Zotto in the embrace-filled wake of Avery’s snap shot goal. Cutting away from an obviously embarrassed Cam Ward (two of Sean’s three goals this season have now come against the Canes, and let’s face it, Sean’s no sniper), the camera caught a shot of Avery’s contorted and seemingly pissed-off facial expression. It looked like his words were directed at the young defenseman Del Zotto, or maybe it was the other way around. Could Avery simply have been reacting to a snide “scoring” comment from MDZ? Is that whose chick he cuckolded? Who else could it be – Prust? Boyle? If he banged Brad Richards’ new date companion, Olivia Munn, than we’ve really got page six material waiting in the wings for just a sliver of verification. Someone needs to step up and set the record straight so I can go back to believing in these blueshirts. Incarcerated Bob, I’m looking at you.

Final question - Were the 24/7 cameras going? Please tell me someone in that seemingly contentious celebration circle was miked up. Considering the inexplicable success of those god-awful Basketball Housewives of Beverly County New Jersey shows, maybe HBO thought sprinkling in some soap opera-like sleeping scandals would help hockey get more popular. Can’t hurt the sport’s popularity; can hurt team chemistry.

This edition of Ranger Haikus is entitled, “I Totally Know That This Whole Article Is Slightly Hypocritical”.

I’m no Bob Costas
But at least I cite my sources
Pot Calling Kettle!