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Dora explores Edmonton.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Dora the Explorer could re-book Game 6

There are a lot of things I could say about this. But I think the best way I can sum up how I feel about this is: wow. You have got to be kidding me. Can't the NHL playoffs catch a break? The first time this happened with the Senators and Sabres was funny, I'll give it that. But now a possible second schedule shift because of every child's favorite Spanish speaking cartoon girl?

This all hinges on if the final round makes it to a sixth game, of course. But let's just say for sake of argument that it will. In which case, I really hope they manage to get something worked out. The sixth game is slated for a Saturday, and NBC would probably have a fit if they need to give up a Saturday game.

Curious no-calls and playoff scheduling.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006
That missed call on Briere near the tail end of that power play was brutal. Just brutal.

Obviously this is one of those "hindsight is 20/20" things, as well as the fact that unlike referees, we the fans -- and the players on the bench (or in the penalty box) -- have a bird's eye view of what is going on on the ice. But even so, seeing that mass of hockey player pile near the blue line as Briere wrapped himself around one (maybe even two) 'Canes players, then got the game winning goal. It's rather ... eh. I'll hold my tongue on the issue.

Either way, now we have a game seven to look forward to on Thursday, down in Raleigh. I tend to absolutely hex myself when I make predictions, so you won't get one out of me. I just hope the game is good.

Now that there's a Thursday game, it also means that we don't have to sit around too long for the Stanley Cup Finals to start after the end of this series. Had it ended tonight, we'd be stuck waiting just about six days before puck drop. Now we have an extra game between then and now.

Though I need to be honest that I don't like how far they're putting off the final series from now. The general census around the places I frequent seems to be that it's pressure from NBC, so that the first game air will be on a Saturday.

But putting off the series like this can't be a good thing, especially when you have to compete with the NBA. I can understand wanting to get the word out about the series schedule as soon as possible, since springing the schedule on people too suddenly and near the start of the series can be detrimental to ratings and people being wise to when to tune in. But I also feel that it wouldn't have hurt to see how long the NBA's own semifinals might be lasting, just from how things went tonight. The earliest the NBA conference finals can end is Saturday.

Then again, it seems like a pretty bad lose-lose situation. If the NHL finals started Saturday, they'd be up against one of two teams in the NBA West attempting a series clincher. Worse, if it goes to Monday? Well, fighting against the ratings of a game seven is pretty tough.

But then again, I'm just a writer ... not a marketing analyst.

Location, location, location!

Monday, May 29, 2006
Just a few days ago, me and Dudski had some commenting back and forth about the current state of the NHL, and what they're doing good and what they're doing not so good. One of the more interesting things that came up, and I'd never really put it into perspective until recently, was the NHL's recent movement -- both in relocation and expansion -- to find sports markets that don't have a major sports team to call their own, and seize on the opportunities of communities looking for one. And not just big, already recognized cities that lack teams, but also cities that are still growing and on the rise.

With that in mind, it's no wonder that Columbus -- and not a place like Cleveland -- won their bid for a new NHL team to join the league at the start of the 2000-2001 season. This, if anything, is probably a good example of taking advantage of where your rivals (NFL, MLB, etc.) are, and where you can go to not just grow the sport and draw in fans of an area, but also beat your sports rivals to the punch. Regardless of if another major sports team comes to a city later on, so long as the 'original' team has managed to secure a spot with the market there, they'll do well in most cases.

It should also be mentioned that the population of Cleveland has been in a major decline for decades, while Columbus' has been rising at a moderately stable rate. Also, despite Columbus being a predominately college sports city with the Ohio State Buckeyes here, the Blue Jackets can take contentment from the fact that there is very little cross-over with their respective seasons, as would be the case if they were elsewhere in the state, where they'd have to compete even harder for attendance and viewership with professional teams like the Browns, Bengals, Reds, Indians, Cavs ... the list goes on and on.

It's a shrewd strategy, really. Carolina is probably one of the best examples of it succeeding as well. Anyone watching the playoffs this year has seen just how insane the "Caniacs" are, and how much they love their Hurricanes as they've gotten better and better. Some may say that their fans are just fairweather, and they might be right in some ways. But you can't really draw in stable fans without having a stable period of winning. It's almost like a fan evolution, where the more a team wins, the more new people are drawn in and become less of a casual/fairweather fan, and more of a fan of the team themselves, as well as the sport, regardless of the good or the bad. It takes a lot of patience, but it usually pays off.

The only drawback, of course, is that teams placed in lesser known cities or areas of a state take longer to find recognition outside of their immediate area. But it's almost like comparing the Tortoise and the Hare, where instead of going for that instant gratification of a landmark city or recognizable area of a state, slow and steady allows for a stable foundation both in the area, as well as throughout the nation as the teams get better and better.

I do think that this will pay off in the long run, though. The question is if sports fans are willing to be patient with a league on the rebound when it comes to successfully gaining respect and recognition.

If you thought the ratings weren't bad enough ...

Sunday, May 28, 2006
... just wait for the finals to start.

Hopefully what I say won't be taken the wrong way, as I mean no offense to the Edmonton Oilers and their many fans north of the border. Their Herculean efforts to push through to the Stanley Cup Finals as the 8th seed -- in the process becoming the first 8th seed to ever do so -- is nothing short of amazing, and deserves full marks. This is the kind of parity that Gary Bettman wanted to see with the new CBA in place, and a more levelled playing field amongst the teams. This is the kind of "against all odds" story that the league was dying for.

What he and the league didn't want to see, though, was a Canadian team representing either conference.

There has been a lot of talk about how a lack of big market teams remaining in the NHL playoffs has had this dreadful impact on the ratings on television. About how things have taken a nasty nosedive due to the bevvy of small market teams that moved on to the semifinals, and then even smaller markets moving on to the Conference Finals. But that can be overcome when it comes to ratings in the United States, after all. Two U.S. hockey markets are two U.S. hockey markets, regardless of their size. So even if there is a lack of ratings in areas beyond the general region of those markets, you still have two home bases to pull viewership from.

But not this year (and for that matter, not during the last finals either). With the Oilers now locked in to represent the West, you'll be looking at probably even worse numbers in the states compared to if Anaheim and either Buffalo or Carolina made it through the playoff gauntlet. Casual and fringe fans of the sport will not tune in to see either the Sabres or Hurricanes, and as sad as it is, Edmonton will hardly pull in anyone -- if anyone at all -- in the states.

Will this be a big draw in Alberta? Or all of Canada for that matter? Of course. The Oilers have become "Canada's team", if you've been reading the news.

Don't misunderstand me, though. If this had been any playoff year besides this one, it would be a different story altogether. The NHL is still in a tenuous position after its comeback from a lock-out, and what it needed most of all was two American teams in the finals to grab more than one market -- big or small -- in the country. It could have been San Jose, Nashville, or even Tampa Bay a second time (dynasties do tend to grow the popularity of a team, regardless of the sport). All that mattered was that it had to be two markets in the states, where the sport is in desperate need of coverage and viewership.

However that will not be the case. Either way, I am no apologist when it comes to my love for hockey, and I would watch the finals even if it turned out to be an all-Canadian team finals. Why? Because I love this game. There's no sport better than this one, and I wish more people felt that way about it.

I'm just concerned about the ramifications that this will have for the final ratings for the playoffs, and long-term effects if the Oilers do end up winning it all.

Edmonton at Anaheim: Game 5.

Saturday, May 27, 2006
Got the TV on, OLN tuned in, and Beninati and Smith yammering away for the commentary. Now is a better time than ever to give it a go with some live blogging during the game.

Period One:

13:57 remaining: The Ducks are down 3-2 in the shot count with about 15 minutes to go in the 1st period. Though down a shot, it looks like the Ducks are really pushing to set the early pace. Edmonton is looking up to the task at most turns though, and held them off the board during a decent Power Play attempt.

The one thing I noticed right away is the fact that the fans at the Pond are, as was probably expected, nowhere near as enthusiastic as the fans at Rexall. I think part of this can be blamed on the fact that the sound of the crowd just sounds pretty muffled. But even factoring that, you can tell that they probably can't match the energy from two nights ago (and then also four nights ago).

I'm pulling for the Ducks just because I have a close friend who is absolutely nutty for them. She'd probably maul me if she saw that I was cheering at all for the Oilers.

12:30 remaining: What a nice screen shot by Beauchemin! There had to be around four guys right in front of Roloson, and who knows if it got deflected by any of the bodies. Ducks are now up 1-0 on a power play goal, and that is good for them. Neil Smith mentioned that the team that scored first has won every game in the series so far. I wonder what their record with the first goal is during their playoff run as a whole.

6:45 remaining: Great save by Giguere, and without his stick no less. As of this moment, Anaheim could very well be up 2-0 or even 3-0 with the way they're clicking right now. It's definitely not going to be another 25 shot first period, but this has been some very strong play by the Ducks. The Oilers seem to be rather thrown around by the ferocity of the Ducks.

End of the first period: That last Duck power play to wrap up the period was pretty bush league. Though they're still coming out of the first period with a 1-0 lead, and 14 shots on net, so they should still be feeling good about having the lead. Time to go make a quick dinner, then get ready for the second period.

Period Two:

16:18 remaining: A rebound goal by Morrow after his own wraparound was denied by Giguere. A minute or two ago Giggy had a great save right in front of the net without a single Duck close enough to stop a rocket at point blank. But even so, now the game is tied 1-1. The Oilers seem to be carrying the play this early part of the second period, and it doesn't look like they're going to pull back now, either.

Incidentally, you can tell just how big of a constituency the Oilers have at the Pond, just from how noticable the cheers for the goal was.

11:29 remaining: And suddenly penalties are beginning to poke a hole in the steam for the Ducks. Another goal for the Oilers, and now Edmonton is up 2-1. This goal came after the penalty had expired, but it may as well have been on the power play, since it was still set up. Let's see if the Ducks can somehow recover from this, and before the end of the period. If they don't pull even by the end of the period, it's going to be an extremely rough third period for them.

End of the second period: With a quick shot from the face-off, the second period ends. The Oilers are still up 2-1, and unless the Ducks want to see their season end tonight, they need to get back the confidence and finesse they had in the first period. That won't be easy either, with Roloson starting to stand strong in the goal. In the Ducks' favor, they'll have about 1:40 left in power play time when the third period starts, so if they can strike quick and tie it up, they can look to go toe for toe with the Oilers in the last 20 minutes.

Period Three:

Writer's Note: It's beyond impossible to focus on writing when you have a bunch of guys above you who sound like they're dropping bowling bowls on the floor for fun all night long. I'd rather sit through an hour of those "Take me fishing" commercials than this.

16:00 remaining:
Ducks couldn't capitalize on their short-lived power play, as Penner got a rather interesting goalie interference penalty from a slightly wayward Roloson out of the crease just a bit. Meanwhile, the game is starting to show signs of chaos and a lack of organization, with the teams flying up and down the rink and going tit-for-tat with shots. But Edmonton is holding a slight advantage in the battle, and if the Ducks can't do something about that, this'll be over sooner rather than later.

9:45 remaining: Cutting to commercial break, and the Ducks will be on the power play after the TV timeout. They're starting to get desperate now, and save for some quick speeding back, the Oilers have had a couple semi-odd man rush chances if they moved quicker to take advantage of them. It looks like they're starting to put the grip of death down on the final half a period. The Ducks really need to score here, but that much is obvious.

3:50 remaining: Another TV timeout after a sudden whistle, and I am going to assume that the whistle is for a penalty on the Oilers, or possibly a high stick. If it is a penalty, the question is if they pull Giguere with this amount of time left for a 6-on-4. Or if that is much too risky.

End of regulation: Finally, despite the Mighty Ducks being on as big as a 6-on-3 advantage in the final two minutes for about 30 seconds or so, the Edmonton Oilers are able to win the game and move on to the Stanley Cup Championships. One team is now set for the finals, and we have one series to go

I'll have some thoughts on the Oilers reaching the finals later. For now, I have some classwork I've been putting off all night that needs doing.

Edit: Haha, oh wow. "Mighty Dunks"? That must have been a major subconscious slip on my part. Well, it's fixed now.

This and that.

Just a couple little notes for the day.

First, a quick thank you to Eric over at Off Wing Opinion for linking me from his site. I've been reading his blog since at least the start of the season when I saw AOL Sports put him as one of their top ten, and have really enjoyed his writing not just on hockey, but other sports news and issues as well.

Next up, this blog will be seeing a lot of graphical and technical changes throughout the day, so if things look a little messy, blame it on my CSS coding skills. They're about on par with a chimpanzee banging on a keyboard. Hopefully by the end of the day there should be a couple of positive looking changes to the layout. I'll be sure to credit some of the hockey bloggers I've gotten inspiration from for the layout after seeing theirs, as well as peeking at their own CSS code through the wonderful option that is "View Source".

And that's it for now.

ESPN and the NHL: Like oil and water.

Friday, May 26, 2006
While milling about the apartment between the end of Pardon the Interruption on ESPN and the start of the 7:30 PM EST Carolina vs. Buffalo game on OLN, I spotted Barry Melrose, and who I think was with John Buccigross between him and some NBA-analyst that ESPN regularly has on doing a little "round table" talk about the NHL vs. the NBA in the middle of the early evening Sportscenter.

Curious to see what they were saying, I unmuted the television and took a seat to catch the tail-end of the little discussion, with Barry talking about how great the NHL is. Of course, before he could finish it seems, the other guy went right into this tirade about how he doesn't like hockey at all, how bad it is, and how he can't wait for the Tour de France to be on OLN instead.

Rolling my eyes, I then decided to see if Bucci happened to have a new blog entry up on the NHL section of ESPN. Despite my general distaste for the channel, I still watch the EOE shows like Around the Horn and PTI for entertainment purposes. No new blog entry yet, but as I was about to close up my browser, I spied with my little eye something small and something in the bottom left, about the "elusive" Carolina Hurricanes fan.

I probably got my hopes up a little too much, hoping that the article might actually have a more positive twist to it, despite the mocking link that led the editorial by writer Bomani Jones. Well, my hopes were soon dashed, as I came to find out that the article was, as expected from the likes of ESPN, a cornucopia of comments about the utter lack of fans in the fringe markets; Carolina in particular in this article.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, really. I've previously talked about my disdain for ESPN's treatment of hockey and its overglorification of football and the NFL. Simply put, all season it has felt as though ESPN has gone out of its way -- both in its "professional" coverage and during their EOE shows -- to jab and spear the NHL. It's like the NHL is the kid who gets made fun of at all, with everyone guffawing and picking on them because it's the cool thing to do.

As a proud hockey fan, I find myself disgusted with the way the league is treated in the mainstream sports media in the post-lock out time that it has been playing. At the same time however, it's all a matter of simple economics and what gets ESPN more viewers and higher ratings. Does giving the NHL playoffs rave reviews and a positive spin help ESPN? Not at all. In fact, it hurts them if they do so. Why? It's due to the fact that at the same time these playoffs are on OLN and NBC ... ESPN, TNT, and ABC are all playing the NBA playoffs.

This isn't the first time I've written about this, either. Or rather, not the first time ever ... but it is certainly the first time here. I've previously aired my opinion on ESPN's treatment of the league in this article on my now defunct FoxSport's Blog, and went further by comparing what the NHL gained and lost by choosing OLN and NBC over ESPN and ABC for the next couple of seasons.

I guess I shouldn't complain while I have OLN on a basic cable plan, and Center Ice in the living room which has the Digital Cable. But even so, it's demoralizing to see how the sport is treated in the United States. You almost feel like you're out of touch with other people around you if hockey is your favorite sport. In the end, though, I hope that sooner or later the brain childs at the NHL and in their Marketing division will be able to figure out some way to sell the sport better. Unfortunately, while ESPN has the choke hold on what Americans care and don't care about in sports, that's easier said than done.

First posts are always the worst.

Thursday, May 25, 2006
Wow. Well, here I am on BlogSpot. After seeing a lot of current sports bloggers use this site as their main place for blogging, I decided that I would move from FoxSports Blogs to here, after seeing FSB degenerate over the time of the Next Great Sportswriter II contest. To be honest, it was beyond ridiculous what was going on there. I admit that blogging can be a pretty testy experience, with exchanges made between people who disagree all the time. But FSB was just a real bad place, with tag spamming and trolls running rampant.

Which is why I moved to BlogSpot. Not only do I like the ability to have a custom layout, but I feel like I have more freedom in what I can talk about and not have to worry about being dragged down by a drab community.

A little about myself, to start. My name is Michael, but my online handle is "Lune" when I'm posting around the 'Net and at other sites. It's just a nickname I ended up picking up a few years ago that stuck. This blog, above all else, is a hockey blog, with a focus on the Columbus Blue Jackets. I've been in love with hockey for a long time, and after I moved to Columbus last year, I instantly found myself drawn to the Blue Jackets, despite their young age and rough beginnings.

Which explains the name of this blog: Army of the Ohio. One of the many stories behind the Blue Jackets' name is because of the state's connection to the American Civil War, both as the largest supplier of uniforms, and soldiers who took part in the war, Columbus being no exception. I thought the best name I could come up with for this blog was something that referred to the Jackets, and also referred to the Civil War, which I used to enjoy reading about when I was younger.

I'll do my best to update this blog as much as possible, and with the Jackets long out of the playoffs now that the Conference Finals are going on, I'll focus on what is going on in those series, while touching on any news I can find about the Jacket's offseason movements.


Jackets Media

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About Me

Name: Michael
Home: San Tan Valley, Arizona, United States
About Me: A mid-20s male who feels much too old even before he's 30. Has a degree in Sport Management and after branching out and trying a few other things in the job market, has finally decided to go back to his first love of hockey and hope he can break in with a team, big or small, somehow.
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