Mar 052013
 

Photo by Jeff Vinnick

I like Keith Ballard.

I liked him with he played in Phoenix.  I liked him when he played in Florida.  And I like him as a Vancouver Canuck.

I was very excited when the Canucks traded for him in late-June 2010.  When the Canucks signed Dan Hamhuis less than a week later, I was over the moon – what an upgrade to our defense!

Unfortunately, Ballard had off-season surgery before he even played his first game in a Vancouver uniform and then he was concussed just four games into the regular season.  Add a sprained MCL and the first benching of his professional career and it was a forgettable 2010-11 season for Ballard despite the team’s success.

Since then, he has been a frequent visitor to coach Alain Vigneault’s doghouse.  Ballard’s most recent stay started on Saturday night when he was replaced in the lineup by Albert Alberts and it continued on Sunday night when Cam Barker took his spot.

So what may have caused his latest benching?  Along with the help of some loyal CHB readers, I present to you The Top 10 Reasons Why Keith Ballard is Back in AV’s Doghouse:

10.  Ballard cut in front of AV in the food lineup at lunch on Saturday.

9.  Ballard signed AV up for a 7 hour time share presentation in exchange for a free T-shirt.  (Submitted by @ECdevoff)

8.  Ballard hid AV’s favourite flavour of gum.  (Submitted by @BCBerrie)

7.  Ballard didn’t work hard enough to maintain or increase his height.  (Submitted by @jedski)

Check out this funny spot with Ali G and Ben Wallace from 2006.

6a.  Ballard ate the last of AV’s favourite lozenge he brought back from his LONG summer vacation.  (Submitted by @s0ya)

6b.  Ballard stole AV`s last pack of lozenges before they got on the plane.  (Submitted by @vansport)

Ah yes – Vigneault’s famous throat lozenges.  The ones he powers through on the bench or in the pre and post game media scrums.

5.  Ballard makes forward passes, and AV wants his d-men to make drop passes instead.  (Submitted by @lo__b)

4.  Ballard didn’t change his last name to Sedin.  (Submitted by @acheung14)

This is a clever reference to Ballard’s classic answer to Canucks TV’s Kathy Anderson question of how to get on to the coach’s good side.  Ballard’s answer: “Good question.  Working on that for 3 years.  Change your last name to Sedin.”

3.   Vigneault is good friends with Tomas Vokoun.

Not Ballard’s finest moment.

2.  Being from Minnesota, Ballard started walking around the dressing room talking like the Caucasian guy with the Jamaican accent in the recent Volkswagen commercial…annoying AV in the process.

1.  He’s Keith Ballard.  (Submitted separately by @SirCanuckles and @transcendwebs)

Mar 032013
 

Clay Imoo (@canuckclay) will be recapping every Vancouver Canucks game with a quick post-game video commentary.  As a start, Clay looks at the good, the bad, and the interesting from the Canucks’ 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings from March 2 at Rogers Arena.

In the video, Clay touches on the Canucks’ top 2 scoring lines, Cory Schneider’s suspect puck-handling, the benching of Keith Ballard, the debut of new enforcer Tom Sestito, and the LA Kings twitter account.

 

Feb 092013
 

Much has been made about the goaltending situation in Vancouver and rightfully so: right now the Canucks have two high-calibre netminders making up arguably the strongest tandem in the league.  So with both Cory Schneider and Robert Luongo playing extremely well, it’s become a daily guessing game as to who will start in the next Canucks game.

Likely tired of these daily questions, coach Alain Vigneault introduced his now famous coin – the one he flips to determine which goalie will get the start.  It was humourous at the start but I hope he won’t be using the same line a few weeks from now.

Thus, your friends at CHB have come up with 10 alternative ways to determine the Canucks’ starting goalie:

10.  Asking the Magic 8-Ball.  It’s helped adults and kids alike make some difficult decisions since 1950, offering profound answers such as: “Concentrate and ask again”, “Very Doubtful”, and “My Sources Say No”.  Obviously, the question must be asked in a yes/no format.

9.  A Game of Laser Tag.  Imagine Luongo and Schneider darting behind walls and jumping over barrels amidst a bunch of screaming 8 year-old kids.  After getting shot at all their lives, they would finally have a chance to do the shooting.  Winner gets the start.

8.  Any Wrestling Gimmick Match.  This would be great way to attract new fans – have Luongo and Schneider participate in any of the following wrestling matches during the warm-up:  Hell in a Cell, Ladder Match, or Last Man Standing.  They should be good with it…they both participated in the Legion of Blog’s NHL Royal Rumble last month.  If that’s too violent or too risky, any game like Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Settlers of Catan, or Twister will do.

7. Suiting Up.  Whoever gets fully dressed into their equipment and jersey first prior to warm-up gets the start. No questions asked.

6. Heads Up Poker.  Each goalie will receive 50 big blinds and Kesler and Bieksa can provide commentary.  Luongo is the all-in favourite in this competition…but look for Schneider to call AV’s bluff and surprise Luongo with some aggressive pre-flop (or make that no-flop) play.

5. Impressions Contest.  If the poker favours Luongo, then Schneider will definitely have the advantage in an impressions contest.  Remember his Hansen, AV and Burrows on CBC’s After Hours?

 

4. Rock, Paper, Scissors.  Nothing wrong with going to an old standard to determine who’s starting. Two main rules: no adding lizard and/or spock, and it must be best-of-7 to avoid flukes or cheating.

3. Canada Vs. USA (Round 1):  Luongo picks 4 Canadian players while Schnedier picks 4 Americans.  Tug of war at centre ice…winning country has their goalie start.

2. Canada Vs. USA (Round 2):  This doesn’t include an injury risk and is solely based on the economy.  Whichever dollar is stronger on game day means that country’s goalie will be the Canucks’ money in the bank for the game.

1. Walk-Off (Zoolander Style).  This is simple: both Luongo and Schneider need to remove their underwear without taking off any of their goalie equipment.  Given the extreme difficulty of this challenge, AV has the option of granting the winner 3 consecutive starts regardless of performance in the games.  David Bowie optional.

 

Feb 032013
 

In quite a comical scene from Friday night’s game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks, Roberto Luongo and Patrick Kane shared a few words as they were sprawled on the ice together seconds after Luongo foiled Kane’s shootout attempt (see video below).  Two rounds later, rookie Jordan Schroeder beat the Hawks’ Corey Crawford before Luongo stopped Nick Leddy to seal the 2-1 win.

Reports surfaced later that Luongo said to Kane “Not this time” as the two players untangled themselves.  Even so, the two rivals were within earshot of each other for a full five seconds after Kane’s failed attempt.  Thus, Luongo likely said more than those three words.

Here are 10 things that Roberto Luongo may have said to Patrick Kane:

10. Just so you know – I let you score on me earlier in the game just to make it more exciting.

9. You should clean your jersey.

8. What’s it like being the Undertaker’s brother?

7. Thanks for boosting my trade value.

6. What do you think of my new single-leg take down maneuver?

5. Got room for one more in the limo?

4. Nice try…hopefully you’ll be able to score at the Roxy.

3. Those moves might work on Schneider but certainly not on me.

2. Tell your GM and coach I’d be an upgrade over your current goalie.  In fact, he’ll probably let a rookie score on him later on in this shootout.

1. Let me know if you need exact change for the taxi later.

Feb 012013
 

The Canucks celebrate their April 2011 playoff series win over the Blackhawks (Photo credit: Reuters)

I’m looking forward to tonight’s big match-up between the Vancouver Canucks and their nemesis the Chicago Blackhawks for a few reasons.  I’m intrigued to see how Roberto Luongo plays against his arch-rivals as the fascinating goaltending saga goes on.  I’m eager to see if guys like Zack Kassian and Keith Ballard can keep up their strong play.  I’m looking forward to some quality time with my lovely wife Gail (who patiently puts up with my blogging shenanigans).  And I wonder if there will be any retribution for Duncan Keith for his dirty hit on Daniel Sedin at the end of last season.

Just 21 months ago, I witnessed the same two teams clash in the best game that I’ve ever seen live.  Of course, I’m talking about game 7 in the first-round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  There had been so much drama and unrest leading up to game 7 as the Blackhawks had won three straight games to tie the series and bring the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Canucks to the brink of elimination.  There were questions about the officiating and questions about the Canucks goaltending (apparently the more things change the more they stay the same).  In fact, Roberto Luongo had been pulled in both games 4 and 5 before Cory Schneider was given the surprise start in game 6.  Schneider then was pulled in game 6…but due to injury.  Add in the fact that the Blackhawks had eliminated the Canucks in the second-round the two previous years and you can see why the game meant so much.

The atmosphere in Rogers Arena was incomparable that evening; there was a noticeable excitement, intensity and nervousness in the crowd the entire night.  I’m sure you remember the game details very vividly: how Alex Burrows scored early in the first and even had a chance to put the Canucks up by two with a penalty shot early in the third period.  How Jonathan Toews tied the game up with only two minutes left in the third period scoring from his knees with an amazing short-handed effort.

The 17-minute intermission between the third period and overtime was among the longest 17 minutes of my life.  I remember very vividly that the crowd sat in stunned silence for the entire time.  My buddy Mike and I, both of us never short for words when at a Canucks game, didn’t say a word to each other for the duration of the intermission.  There wasn’t really anything to be said.  We were about to witness history: either the Canucks were about to exorcise the Chicago Blackhawks demons or they would complete one of the greatest meltdowns in NHL playoff history.

We didn’t have to wait too long for a sign.  And it wasn’t a good one.

Just 24 seconds into the extra frame, Alex Burrows took a holding penalty on Duncan Keith on what seemed like a harmless play behind the Chicago net.  On the ensuing power-play, Roberto Luongo made an absolutely amazing save on Patrick Sharp’s one-timer from five feet away.  In watching the save countless times, I will say that it wasn’t Luongo’s most difficult save of the season.  But it certainly was his biggest.

You know the rest: just two shifts later, Burrows intercepted Chris Campoli’s clearing attempt, deftly dropped the puck to his feet, and slapped the winner over Crawford’s blocker.  The goal set off a wild celebration both on the ice (remember Victor Oreskovich jumping around looking for someone to hug?) and in the stands.  It’s certainly the loudest I’ve ever heard the crowd at Rogers Arena…rivaled only by the roar after Kevin Bieksa scored in game 5 vs. the Sharks to send the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals.

That’s why I look forward to Blackhawks-Canucks games.  They always seem to be intense and exciting contests.  We’ll see what drama unfolds tonight.

Dec 232012
 

For this special edition of Clay’s Canucks Commentary, I pull a few friends together for the 3rd annual Canucks Christmas Carol.

Once again I am joined by my friends Joe, Oggy, Jason, Pat and the foreign exchange student Kevin.  Kevin came all the way from overseas to watch some hockey but he gets something else instead.

Last year we put together the Bieber-inspired “Under the Minne(so)” and in 2011 we did the “12 Days of Christmas”.

For this year, we do our version of the classic “This Christmas”.

Merry Christmas from all of us at CHB!

Nov 162012
 

According to many sources, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has suggested that the NHL and NHLPA take a two-week moratorium from negotiating – apparently after NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said he didn’t know how the two sides would proceed to break the stalemate.

Understandably, the reaction to Bettman’s request has been overwhelmingly negative: from the Fehrs, from players, and from fans.  A two-week break doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense at such a critical time in the negotiation process.  I know that if I suggested a two-week moratorium to my lovely wife Gail the next time we had a disagreement, I’d be looking for a new place to live.

So I took it upon myself to delve into the Commissioner’s mind as to why he would request the break.  Thus, here are the Top 10 Reasons Why Gary Bettman Requested the 2-Week Moratorium:

10.  To undergo plastic surgery to make himself look less like the Count from Sesame Street.

9.  To watch reruns of 24/7 and the Winter Classic.

8.  To buy new needles for his “Donald and Steve Fehr” voodoo set.

7.  To go hunting with David Booth.

6.  To hunt down Bill Simmons and hurt him.

5.  To help investigate the affair of former CIA Director David Petraeus.

4.  To find out who really is behind the @strombone1 Twitter account.

3.  To concentrate fully on the CFL’s Divisional Final games and Grey Cup.

2.  To obtain a personality, sense of humour, and shred of likability.

1.  To get together with his negotiating team to craft out a thoughtful, fair and workable proposal to the NHLPA.

Well, we can all dream can’t we?

 

Oct 252012
 

I met Matthew Hawkins through the Ultimate Canucks Fan Contest back in 2007.  Since then we’ve become fast friends sharing mutual interests of family (our own and not each other’s), video games, making videos and of course, the Vancouver Canucks.  Speaking of videos, here’s a Clay’s Canucks Commentary from last year where we talked more about the Ultimate Canucks Fan Contest.

It’s a year later and while there is no hockey (yet), I thought it would be a good time to check in with my buddy Matthew in my newest Shooting From the Hip.

In his own words:

Matthew (@matthewahawkins) resides in the horribly named town of Chilliwack, BC. He is a professional amateur adult rec hockey league player in the C division. His team doesn’t win much, but he plays for the money.

1.  Tell us about the Ultimate Canucks Fan contest and some of the videos you did for it.

Years ago I entered this crazy contest the Canucks put on called the Ultimate Canucks Fan contest. I never won anything out of it, but I did sell rights of one video to a studio in Halifax and I was on several news stations. People still don’t get that the Boston accent was a big joke and think there is something wrong with me. Here’s one of the videos.

2.       One of your most popular videos is a rap song called “I Just Pulled an Auger on You”.  Care to explain?

I don’t think this video started to get popular until Harrison Mooney, from Pass it to Bulis, made fun of it on his blog. Auger decided to retire from his illustrious career as an NHL official and my video fit in well to say farewell to the French Canadian referee. I know I can’t rap, at all, but I wanted to make a video of me being an idiot and I think I succeeded.

3.       What’s your general mood with respect to the NHL lockout?

To be honest, I haven’t followed it too closely. I do think the PA has some legitimate gripes and I think the owners are extremely stubborn, then you throw in Garry Bettman and who likes that guy? I have been finding my sports fix in the NFL this year. Still trying to find out what happened to Tebow?

I don’t like that there is a lockout. Saturday evenings seem so empty in our house. Hockey Night in Canada is one of our favorite nights as we hang out in front of the TV, play some living room hockey and try to understand what Kevin Weekes is saying. I’m not happy about the lockout, but all I can do is wait for them to figure it out.

4.       What’s your prediction of the date of the next NHL regular season game?

I think we’ll be lucky to see any hockey before Christmas. Maybe they’ll get the Winter Classic ready to go because that’s a big money maker and we can celebrate the anniversary of Sidney Crosby’s concussion. Both parties seem so far apart from each other, I don’t think hockey before Christmas is going to happen. I really wouldn’t be surprised if there is no season at all this year. So much for EA’s NHL 13 Moments Live feature…

5.       Where is Roberto Luongo going to end up once the lockout ends (whenever that may be)?

If this lockout keeps going, I think Luongo will have a gut from eating too many canollis. Maybe he’ll team up with Wellfed in Winnipeg?! In all honesty, I think Luongo will be going to Florida and maybe, just maybe, Toronto. For a little while there was rumor he may go to Chicago, which would make the feud between the two clubs even better, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I say Florida, his roots are there and he’s probably pushing for it to happen.

Oct 112012
 

@iam_canuck

On the day that the Vancouver Canucks were supposed to open their 2012-13 regular season in Calgary against the Flames, I check in with another two Canucks fans about their favourite and not-so-favourite players, preferred dinner guests and of course, the lockout.

Crystal (@iam_canuck) was born in Abbotsford, BC, and has hop-skipped around the western provinces (except Alberta) before settling where she currently resides in Winnipeg, MB.  She lives with her parents, sister, and her equally Canucks-crazed brother.  She started watching hockey in February 2010 (during the Vancouver Olympics!), and latched on to the Canucks since she was living in BC at the time.  Her secondary love is basketball and she has played it for longer than she can remember.  She’s living her dream of playing at the university level right now at Providence University College.  While playing ball, she’s studying Communications and Media and hopes to someday work in sports journalism or reporting (she would love to take over Derek Jory’s job).  Her other interests include rockin’ out to country music, hanging out with friends, and watching movies.

Dan (@vancitydan) is currently between professions, and open to new opportunities.  Born in Calgary, he moved to BC before four, and feels homesick without the purple mountains’ majesty about.  Having been schooled mainly in the classroom of life, Dan has worked in a variety of businesses as a manager, and truly enjoys helping people.  A lifelong photographer who went from making his living as one to being part of a team of professionals helping movie makers realize their creative visions.  While he first hit the ice in full Bobby Orr regalia at age four, Dan has been a Canuck fan since three years later, when the team joined the NHL in 1970.  He fully agrees that Dale Tallon got unfairly compared to Perreault, loved how Andre Boudria played, and still cannot fully understand how Vladimir Krutov went from one of the best power forwards in the world to a cautionary tale for overeating in one year.  Vive le Vancouver restaurants!  Currently one part of the team of many fine writers at NucksMisconduct.com.

1. Who is your favourite current Canuck and why?

Crystal:  I have struggled with this question forever.  When people ask me this, I usually rattle off my top 5 or 6, simply because I love them all.  But since I have to narrow it down, I tend to be drawn not only to the best players on the ice, but the guys with awesome personalities off the ice as well.  Having said that, Cory Schneider, Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler are the main guys that spring to my mind.  Watching these guys do interviews are some of the most entertaining, hilarious moments of the season for me.

Dan:  My favourite Canuck is Kevin Bieksa both for his style of play and his talent, and because he’s one of the most community-oriented guys on the team. Plus, come on:  he is obviously one of the funniest and toughest guys on the team, no matter what that punk Vern Fiddler says!

2. Which Canuck would you not miss if he wasn’t on the team? Why?

Crystal:  Dale Weise.  Hands down.  It’s not that I hate the guy; it’s just that I like him the least.  Okay, I kinda hate him.  It’s mainly because back when he had his Twitter (and wasn’t using it wisely), I made a harmless comment about him doing so.  He responded not-so-nicely to me.  Ever since then, I haven’t been so fond of #32.  There’s also the question of production for Weise.  He’s never been a prominent player.  Not even close to prominent actually.  He’s been… present.  That’s all I can say for him.

Dan:  I don’t want to answer that question, as it will make the guy I pick feel bad.  You have Mason Raymond who falls down too much and Keith Ballard who isn’t worth his cap hit.  I do think that Ballard would be better on another team where he would have more opportunity.  So, if I had to answer (and it sounds like I do), I would say Ballard should be traded somewhere where he’d get more ice time.

3. Who would you rather have dinner with: Alain Vigneault or Mike Gillis? Why?

Crystal:  Alain Vigneault.  I want to see if he chews gum throughout dinner as well.  No, seriously I’d like to pick his brain!  Last year the team had a lot of different line combinations (most of which didn’t work), so I want to hear the logic behind that from the man himself!  I also just would like to get to know him.  I feel like we know tons about the players, their families, etc., but AV is kind of in the background.  He’s a really funny guy who I think would be entertaining to talk to!  I also want to find out if he can impersonate Cory Schneider as well as Cory can impersonate him.

Dan:  Alain Vigneault.  Though I would enjoy hearing about the travails of coaching the team, I am almost as interested in hearing about his time as “Bam Bam” as a St Louis Blue.  As well, I want to hear what it’s like to have millions of British Columbians “couch coaching” your every move.

4. What’s your general mood with respect to the NHL lockout?

Crystal:  The regular season is supposed to be starting today, which really made me think (and cry).  I should be donning my jersey, getting super pumped for my Canucks to pummel the Calgary fLames on opening night in their arena.  But I’m not.  Which is sad, because all summer I was literally counting down the days to October 11.  One of the things I hate the most about this situation is the fact that the Canucks were supposed to be coming to Winnipeg on February 9, and my brother and I were going to go.  Now we can’t.  Stupid lockout.

Dan:  A growing indifference, tinged with the realization that I would probably come running back!  The NHL knows they have Canadians in their back pocket.  I do feel that even this Canadian is reaching his breaking point if there is some foolish reason for no season.  Grow up Gary!

5. What’s your prediction of the date of the next NHL regular season game?

Crystal:  Being the positive person I am, I don’t really want to say that I don’t think there will be a season at all this year.  So I won’t.  I’m hoping for a October 25 start, although you and I both know that won’t happen.  At the rate the NHL/NHLPA talks are going, I think the most realistic goal, as the great Wayne Gretzky has already predicted, is for the Winter Classic on January 1.  Until then, I guess I have evenings free to do schoolwork.  Ugh.

Dan:  Late November or early December.  The Winter Classic will be the impetus for a deal.  So, when the Canucks win the Cup next summer, the haters will talk about how it deserves an asterisk.  #EmbraceTheHate!

Oct 022012
 

@_EricaDawn

We’re two weeks into the NHL lockout so I decided to check in with another two Canucks fans about their feelings, their frustrations, and their outlook.

Erica (@_EricaDawn) only acknowledges two seasons and is lucky enough to experience both in British Columbia:  hockey and summer.  Erica was born in Langley, raised throughout the Lower Mainland and currently resides in Coquitlam.  She has an education in hospitality management, a job as a food and beverage department supervisor, a passion for hockey and travel, and a love for her Boston Terrier fur-baby Cali (named after her favorite place to be…California!). She travels down to California to watch the boys in white take on the three local teams.  Her top three not so best kept secrets would be her love for Halloween, her love for Disney, and her love for Ryan Kesler.

@Mitch_SBMedia

Mitch (@Mitch_SBMedia) was born in Lethbridge, Alberta, but don’t hold that against him. He moved to BC at the age of two and ever since he can remember, he’s lived and died by the Vancouver Canucks.  He studied audio engineering which in his words was “a colossal waste of time and money”.  Currently Mitch finds himself as a production and logistics coordinator in his home town of Coquitlam.  A devoted partner to his lovely girlfriend of eight years and father of two, Mitch is already well on his way to being a hockey dad.  As a matter of fact, he recently assaulted another parent in the parking lot after his four-year old sons’ “refresher” hockey class.  When pressed on the subject all he could say was “It’s an ongoing investigation, but I think if you know me, you know I’ll do a three or four year bid just to prove a point.”  When he’s not watching hockey or playing it, his time is spent with his girlfriend and kids. Mitch also blogs about hockey for Northwest Sports Beat, Rob the Hockey Guy and Nucks Misconduct. He’s also a member of the secret order of the Stonecutters.

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