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Tasca's Take

A Good Laugh

Gregory Campbell has nothing to do:

"I've talked to a number of guys around the league that I'm close with. Everybody says they're bored," Campbell told the Globe. "I try and look for things to do, things that I've always wanted to do, to pursue those things. But I'm a hockey player. I want to get back to playing."

Since he hasn't been playing during the lockout, Campbell has instead been getting his adrenaline rush by doing ride-alongs with Boston cops.

Forgive me if I have absolutely no sympathy for a professional hockey player who's going stir crazy during the lockout.  It's always driven me nuts to see columnists write such inane material, but since NHL reporters are having just as much trouble staying occupied as the players are, these are the kind of stories that get significant play. 

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For Leaf Fans Only

Earlier this week, the owner of the OHL's Brampton Battalion announced the team will be relocating to North Bay next season.  Columnist Dave Pollard wonders how the club survived so long in the Flower City:

With so few bums in the seats almost from the outset of the franchise, I wouldn't have been at all surprised if the Battalion had moved years ago. The team has a hard-core group of supporters, sure, but the numbers just aren't great enough to make it work in Brampton. Been that way for 15 years, probably would have been for another 15, even if the top marketers in the world were hired.

Many Americans seem to think the Greater Toronto Area has the most rabid hockey fans in English Canada, but the fact of the matter is the western part of the region has never supported junior teams.  Brampton and Mississauga have finished dead last in OHL attendance for years.  The AHL's Toronto Marlies also struggle to attract fans, as the club currently sits ninth in league attendance, despite the lack of NHL hockey. 

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Fighting Chance

As hard as it may be to believe, some of the most insightful and articulate hockey players are fighters. 

I've interviewed countless tough guys over the years.  The conversations are often quite lengthy, and by far the most memorable.  Getting to know these players has given me an incredible appreciation for what they do, and the challenges they face on and off the ice.

Anyone who's had the pleasure of meeting Bobby Robins can attest not only to his intelligence, but his amicability.  A 31-year-old journeyman, Robins decided to take up fighting two years ago after a brief stint in Europe.  His pugilistic skills in the ECHL earned him a promotion to the AHL last December.  Robins took advantage, fighting a remarkable 20 times in the second half of the season with Providence.  He's kept up his torrid pace this year, dropping the gloves five times in eight games. 

A few weeks ago, Robins wrote about a discussion he had with his fiancee last summer regarding whether he should continue fighting, particularly in light of recent studies documenting the long-term effects of concussions:

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This and That

A prime example of why it's a bad idea to go to the bathroom during a hockey game:

The Abbotsford Heat set an American Hockey League record for the fastest two goals scored by one team, finding the net twice in three seconds during a 3-0 win over the Toronto Marlies at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre on Thursday night.

Steve McCarthy scored at 4:28 of the third period to break a scoreless tie, and on the ensuing faceoff, Ben Street shot the puck from center ice and beat Marlies goalie Ben Scrivens to make it 2-0. Both goals were shorthanded.

In other news, Eric Godard is hanging up the skates after 12 years as a pro.  Kevin Mitchell has a great write-up that's worth the read.

Lastly, our best wishes go out to Edmonton prospect and former Regina Pats defenseman Brandon Davidson, who's battling testicular cancer.

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The Ageless Question

Reporter Fluto Shinzawa doesn't think fighting should be allowed in major junior hockey:

Teenage life is already complicated. But think of the layers involved when a 16-year-old — or maybe his coach or parent — concludes that fighting other youngsters, rather than scoring or defending or stopping pucks, is the optimal career path.

Enforcers speak of the emotional depths they must negotiate to gear themselves up to fight. Teenagers are hardly equipped to deal with the mental strain of fighting a counterpart in front of their teammates, friends, coaches, and parents. Junior hockey is no place for such a hostile work environment.

Interestingly enough, Shinzawa is a strong proponent of fighting at the professional level.  In his opinion, grown men are much more capable of handling the emotional and physical strains of on-ice fisticiffs than teenagers:

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Long Time Coming

After years of discussion, it looks like the NHL is ready to adopt a hybrid icing rule:

Oklahoma City Barons defenceman Taylor Fedun, who broke his leg on an icing race against the Wild in Minnesota in September 2011 and missed an entire season, certainly wants the hybrid icing rule that the AHL is trying out.

A linesman can now whistle icing if a blue-liner is ahead of a charging forward at the faceoff dots.

The league will vote on whether to keep it a permanent fixture on Nov. 19. It’ll likely stay in. The experiment is for the NHL’s benefit to determine if they’ll go that route as well.

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Who’s Next?

Apparently, members of the media are now interviewing each other about the NHL lockout.  Today, broadcaster Jim Hughson was asked to offer his thoughts on the situation:

"I've been around the NHL for a long time, for the better part of 30 years," he said. "And what really disappoints me is that in reaching the pinnacle this past spring with Los Angeles winning the Stanley Cup, the sport I work on is finally making some real inroads in some real tough markets; the league is on the cusp of something really good, and to see it shut down by a lockout is so anti-productive.

"A lockout, taking away your product, is such a counter-productive way of dealing with any sort of labour dispute. In places like Phoenix and Columbus, Florida and Los Angeles, all the places we've watched struggle to find an identity, I think you need to play and be present.

"Even if at the end of the lockout you gain financially because you get a better deal, I think the lockout outweighs that because of what it does negatively for your business.

"This whole business of locking out constantly is really bothersome to me because I don't think it works."

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Playing Games

Canucks blogger Tom Benjamin offers his take on the NHL's latest proposal:

The players have been put in a very difficult position. So far the public has been on their side for the most part. The league – and Gary Bettman – have taken more than a few lumps in the media. But if there has been a single thread throughout the media coverage it is that a 50-50 split of the revenues is both fair and inevitable. That’s all Bettman has cared about until this point.

Bettman’s position is suddenly reasonable – fair and inevitable even – only because he started negotiations from a ridiculous spot. Never mind the fact that he is demanding that the players (in the aggregate) take a 12% paycut when business is booming. The tide of public opinion will turn if the players don’t take their lumps now...

My interests are best served if the players fold, but I can’t blame them – I’ll even admire them a little – if they choose to fight.

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Opportunity Knocks

In a nice writeup on the city's Central Hockey League expansion team, David Migoya notes how minor league hockey has a lengthy history of failure in Denver:

What makes this group different from prior minor-league teams, though, is a squad of professionals with a new technology at their disposal, enabling them to provide a show that's more than just a traditional hockey game.

There's a new high-definition video board and a light-and-sound show by Edge, the same guys who handle shows at Sports Authority Field at Mile High for Broncos and Outlaws games. The team even has photo-op plans for a refurbished 1970s-era Zamboni that has been sitting idle at the Coliseum for years.

Although digital video boards, rock music, spotlights, ice girls, and hyped-up public address announcers are considered mandatory requirements in the modern day sports age, I sometimes wonder if any of those things truly have an impact on attendance figures at hockey games.  The answer is probably no, but it's hard to deny that the aforementioned features enhance the arena experience for most fans. 

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Waiting Game

As NHL fans continue to twiddle their thumbs, Chris Stevenson seems to think the stakes are higher now than they were eight years ago:

If the owners and players needed another reason to come to an agreement and play hockey this season, they might want to consider the longer this lockout drags on, the better the chances fans will stay away this time.

The previous time there were probably a lot of fans who understood the "cap-no-cap" philosophical battle.

A year without NHL hockey, well, if that was going to be the price to pay for labour peace and a system that guaranteed the financial health of the NHL, fans didn't like it but could understand it.

Now, it just looks like two greedy sides fighting over the fans' money.

Normally a thoughtful columnist, Stevenson is way off base here.  His argument that hockey junkies "could understand" the reasons behind the '05 lockout is particularly asinine.

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About Tasca's Take

Tasca's Take is written by Joe Tasca. Born and raised in Westerly, Rhode Island, Joe works as a broadcaster for seven radio stations in southern New England. Whether that's a testament to his on-air ability or because he has a desparate need for money is debatable.

Joe spends his summers playing golf, enjoying the beauty of Misquamicut Beach, and wining and dining girls who are easily awed by the mere presence of a radio personality. During the winter months, he can usually be found taking in a hockey game somewhere in North America. In the spring, he spends much of his time in botanical gardens tiptoeing through the tulips, while autumn is a time to frolic with his golden retrievers through piles of his neighbors’ leaves.

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