Thursday, December 13, 2007

On the road in Carolina and Pittsburgh

The road trip continues for the Senators. Here in Carolina there are things that are different as you would expect in a non-traditional hockey market. First they really like traffic pylons. When you drive into the RBC Centre they have thousands and thousands of cones laid out on every street coming into the building. They are very big on traffic control here. We always laugh driving into the building at game time calling it the “Cone forest”. Right now the Canes are averaging over 16 thousand per game. In the past there were many games when the pylons outnumbered the fans.

Some people also ask why is a building in Raleigh, North Carolina named the RBC Center. How many American buildings are named after large Canadian banks? The answer we were given is Nortel. When the naming rights were up for grabs Nortel stock was in the clouds and they had cash to burn. Nortel has a huge facility here. RBC is a major high tech lender and Nortel is one its biggest clients in that sector.

Looks like we will see a suspension out of this game. Carolina’s Scott Walker brushed Martin Gerber and with the starting goalie already out, Mike Fisher took exception to the contact on Gerber. He went after Walker in a good tilt that opened a cut on Walkers face. At the end of the fight Walker head butted Fisher and took a late punch at Fisher as the linesmen tied the pair up. Both are no no’s. The head butt is the biggie. Fisher chipped one tooth and will likely lose another which was driven back into his mouth. Walker was ejected from the game and now awaits supplementary discipline. He will likely get a game or two. Head butting is rare and is viewed by most in hockey as part of the ugly 5. Hair pulling, spitting, eye gouging, kicking and head butting are generally viewed as exceptionally smarmy tactics by other players and the league. It is entirely another debate as to whether the ugly 5 are any better or worse or more dangerous than intentional head shots and hits from behind, but they are defiantly viewed in a different and less respectful light in the hockey world.

Now it’s on to Pittsburgh which is one of my favorite NHL cities. Yes that’s right Pittsburgh! The drive in from the airport is beautiful as you driver over the bridge from the airport off the escarpment, over the Ohio River and into downtown Pitt. The people here are friendly, it’s clean and it has a vibrant downtown. And lets face it, its always fun to quiz the young reporters on the media bus as to the names of the 3 rivers which run through Pittsburgh. If your answer is the Allegheny, Ohio, and Monongahela you are right.

The big question here in Penguin Ville is all about goaltending right now. FLeury is out with a high ankle sprain. He won’t play for 6 to 8 weeks but it might be longer with this type of injury. Doctors often say that breaking the leg takes less recovery time than a high ankle sprain. Goaltenders are affected even more because of the drive they need to go post-to-post and get up after going down in the butterfly. So what do the Penguins do? Do they live with Dany Sabourin and Ty Conklin and wait and hope for Fleury’s return. Do they go out and sign a veteran guy who isn’t currently in the NHL like Curtis Joseph or Eddy Belfour? Do they try and make a deal for a top young goaltender and give up on Fleury? All tough decisions for GM Ray Shero.

See you at the rink.