Monday, April 30, 2007

Separated At Birth?

In keeping with the tradition of the New York Post's Phil Mushnick and truesportsfans' Tommy Dee, I offer this most pertinent question, are these folks separated at birth? News 12 Westchester's Janine Rose and songstress Bette Midler, followed by frequent face on this blog, rocker Pete Townshend and impending unrestricted free agent, former Edmonton Oiler and current New York Islander, Ryan Smyth.
Also, our old buddy Rob Adams is getting ready to replace Joe Torre by sharpening his skills as a t-ball manager. Go here to see. Rob and Tom Dee both have great blogs that I hit often.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

From Stemmer to Rosie...It's A Winner Either Way!

How appropriate it was today at Madison Square Garden that the New York Rangers would win a thrilling 2-1 Game 3 over the Buffalo Sabres. Why you ask? Well, it was on this date in 1971 that Pete Stemkowski scored the game winner at 1:29 of the third overtime to propel the Blueshirts into a Game 7 against the Chicago Blackhawks. It was "Stemmer's" second OT winner of the series. Today, the cornerstone of a currently very good and potentially great future defense, netted the game winner in the second longest hockey game at MSG - second of course to the above mentioned game 36 years ago. For Michal Rozsival would cut Buffalo's series lead in half with a blast through traffic past Ryan Miller, 16:43 into the second OT.

You will hear much about the officiating in this one - putrid at best. The video guys up in Toronto blowing a call on Karel Rachunek's obvious goal. But that's for another time. Today, was a great game. This afternoon was endless action up and down the soupy Garden ice. The NHL shined on Broadway with a matinee that gave everyone their money's worth. Jaromir Jagr, who scored the Blueshirts' only allowed goal in regulation, was a man possessed, turning the clock back and skating with such power and speed that he looked unstoppable. Sean Avery, invisible during the first two games of the series, was inside Derrick Roy's head all afternoon. I expect Roy could be joining some of the Atlanta Thrashers on a couch if Avery keeps it up. Henrik Lundqvist made saves for the Rangers that only a superhuman could make. But, if Lundqvist was preternatural, what adjectives could I use to describe Buffalo netminder Ryan Miller? The Rangers would have scored five minimum against a goalie with even a fraction of lesser skills. This, my friends, was hockey at its best.

Even the nauseating frivolity of Pierre McGuire was tolerable. Of course, Doc Emerick showed why he is one of the best play-by-play guys in sports. Particularly, when McGuire compared the cut he has on his head from being hit by an errant stick to the birthmark on former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Emerick didn't even miss a beat, adding that Gorby was a former Nobel Peace Prize winner (1990).

But it was Rozsival's day to shine. Showing no effects of a knee injury he sustained in Game 1, "Rosie" logged an astounding 38:16 of ice time. Just as Stemmer's goal brought down the house at the conclusion of a marathon, Rozsival did the same. Although, Buffalo still holds the series lead, the great thing is we get to do it again Tuesday night at MSG. I love this game!

Stay Onsides!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Odds & Sods: The Where The Hell Have You Been Version!

Wow it's been a long time since Odds & Sods has strutted its stuff. So who can we blame for O & S' absence? Why, of course, it has to be the Dudleys. I'm just not sure which Dudley at this point. Dudley Dudley, Dudley Dudley Dudley Dudley, D-Von, oh well, we'll save that for another time.

So let's take a quick spin around the globe...

In Somalia, the al-Qaeda led insurgency has been crushed for the time being. That according to the Somali "government" that issued a statement earlier this week that they've killed hundreds of militants. I'm just wondering what role the U.S. played in this. It was confirmed in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs magazine that America's air force played a role in sending the insurgents scurrying earlier this year, although, Ethiopia apparently was the lead dog in that one. Some people might ask why I care? Well, any failed state in the world, particularly in the Horn of Africa is a potential launching ground for terrorist attacks against the U.S. and her interests around the globe. Somalia was the center base for the thugs involved in the dual 1998 embassy bombings in Africa. Far away lands indeed, but I still care about the safety of others. Don't you?

Meanwhile, the genocide continues in Darfur with approximately 400,000 being killed and two million driven from their homes into the neighboring countries of Uganda and Chad. I just can't believe that in 2007 there is a genocide going on and that there is not more outrage! Disgusting, we all should be embarrassed. If you want to speak out go here, it's not much but it is a start.

Hamas continues to lob rockets in the direction of southern Israel, mirroring what we saw prior to the standoff last summer. Syria reportedly is building up militarily along the Golan Heights and we all know about Iran's rhetoric. Bad news for Israel, especially since Israeli P.M. Ehud Olmert is in hot water over a bunch of scandals, so I'm not sure he will be able to respond. Many, are even calling for Olmert's resignation.

Saudi officials say they have nabbed 172 al-Qaeda members who planned a 9/11-style attack on the oil wells inside the Saudi Kingdom. I highly doubt anything that comes out of the House of Saud, whenever I hear such nonsense The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" goes through my mind. That country plays us for the biggest fools on earth! They tell us one thing in English and then go on t.v. and state the complete opposite in Arabic. Of course, if this country decided to really get serious about fighting the War On Terror, we would invest some money in getting more Arabic interpreters.

I haven't done anything in regards to Imus, however, here is the Hannity & Colmes' interview with former Imus Producer, Bernard McGuirk, broken up into three parts:

The NBA Playoffs started,...they did? I have no clue why but it has no juice for me at all. I am not even really that into the Lakers at this point. The Lakers? Well, as some of you may know when I'm not rooting for the Knicks, I pull for the L.A. Lakers. Now before anyone gets all huffy, let me explain. Growing up the Celtics used to clobber the Knicks, therefore I needed to root for a team that could clobber Boston. Who better but the L.A. Lakers? So the story goes, and just in case you are wondering my favorite basketball player ever is Magic Johnson, second is Bernard King.

I still just don't get why Kobe Bryant is so intensely disliked?

Good to see our old pal Marcus Camby win the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award. Yeah, he just couldn't fit in with the Knicks!

The NHL Playoffs are more entertaining than ever, but so few are watching. What a shame. I never thought it possible, but I actually found two worst broadcasters than the old Devils' radio announcers. Where? On Versus, of course. Their coverage is pretty shabby, but I guess that's the best the NHL can do for right now. Former Flyer and Capital Keith Jones, though, is a great studio announcer.

Is there any good news to report? Well, N.Y.C.'s earnings were higher than expected and now show a $4 billion surplus. Mayor Mike is playing it smart by putting some money away for a rainy day. People had such low expectations of Bloomberg when he took office, but talk about someone who has exceeded those expectations. I'd love to see him run for President but it doesn't look like he is going to. The other day he and Al Gore had a pretty funny exchange about the other running for the Oval Office. Bloomy would be a welcome addition to the current stale compilation of Republicans running for four-year residency at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

I have believed for several years now that Hillary Clinton will win in 2008. Despite the fact that many believe that Barack Obama is more popular than Jesus (it's a joke dammit!) I still expect Hillary to win. Scary thought, indeed. Did you know that Hillary Clinton used to label herself a "Goldwater Republican" up until she went to college? Funny how people's opinions can sway, especially Mrs. Clinton's, whose positions on the various issues change colors in the blink of an eye.

Although I have already reported this piece of news here, I will do so again: Anne Rice's bestselling book Christ The Lord: Out of Egypt, is being turned into a movie. Filming will begin this fall in Israel and is set to hit theaters a year later.

Unfortunately, I had to cancel my free-to-view card scheduled for tomorrow night which featured some really good matches. We'll do it another time.

In the mean time, if you love music, here is an interesting read.

I got to see Montgomery Delaney and Sloan Wainwright perform at the Watercolor Cafe in Larchmont about a month or so ago. The two were brilliant, absolutely brilliant!

Finally, R.I.P. David Halberstam - the world lost a tremendous mind!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

NHL Playoffs With A Little...Er...Bark!

OK, so now let's get back to the NHL Playoffs, there will be time for the serious stuff at another point. Before we get to the second round, let's review how I did in the first round.

I said...
Buffalo (1) over NY Isles (8) in 4...Sabres won in 5
New Jersey (2) beats Tampa Bay (7) in 4...NJ in 6.
Rangers (6) defeat Atlanta (3) in 5...NY in 4
Penguins (5) win in 7 against Senators...Ottawa (4) won in 5

Detroit (1) in 5 over Calgary (8)...Red Wings won in 6.
Anaheim (2) edges Minnesota (7) in 7...Ducks in 5
Vancouver (3) takes Dallas (6) in 6...Canucks won in 7.
San Jose (5) outshoots Nashville (4) in 6....Sharks won in 5

Not bad, not great. So in predicting the second round I have enlisted some help from man's best friend.

Detroit (1) vs. San Jose (5)
If Calgary had shown up for the first two games against Detroit in the Joe Louis Arena, we could be talking about why the Red Wings went home again early from the playoffs. But Calgary did not, so we're not. Dom Hasek was barely tested against the Flames, but he'll get all he can handle in this one with Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo firing pucks at him all day and night long from every angle. Billy Guerin looks like his usual nasty self after spending time in obscurity with the St. Louis Blues; that means good news for the Sharks, bad news for the Wings. San Jose's goalie Evgeni Nabokov is not as good as Calgary's netminder, Miikka Kiprusoff, but he's very good nonetheless. Detroit looked better than they are against Calgary, while the Sharks beat a very good Nashville team. Or have the hockey experts already forgotten that the Preds boasted Peter Forsberg?

I say San Jose in 6, the Dog says Detroit in 7.

Anaheim (2) vs. Vancouver (3)
This is the best matchup in the second round, that my friends, me and the doggie can agree on. Trevor Linden showed why he is "Captain Canuck" with his huge goal in game 7 vs. Dallas. Roberto Luongo is scary good right now, and the Sedin twins are something to see as well. However, Anaheim has Teemu Selanne and a host of youngsters such as Ryan Getzlaf and Dustin Penner who are hungering for a trip to the Finals. Let's also not forget to mention the dynamic blueline pair of Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger for Anaheim. This one goes seven in my book.

I say Ducks in 7, doggie says Canucks in 7.

Buffalo (1) vs. New York Rangers (6)
The Buffalo Sabres won the President's Trophy this year with the best record in the NHL. The Rangers played their best hockey from February on. The Sabres love to roll four lines and attack with their d-men. The Rangers have one super line, two very good lines, and one line that can bang and fight and make life miserable. The Rangers' defense has got to play within itself in this series. Positioning is absolutely crucial, because if any of the Blueshirts' d-men start to think they are Brian Leetch, New York will be in deep doo-doo. Sorry doggie!

Chris Drury, Thomas Vanak, Daniel Briere, Jason Pominville all netted 30 goals this season, those four speedsters along with Ranger pest Maxim Afinogenov will become household names to New York's fans, unless of course Henrik Lundqvist plays the series of his life. I think it was really important for Lundqvist to have swept Atlanta to help erase the sour memory of New Jersey from a year ago. If Lundie plays like the 'King,' Rangers win in 6. If not, it could be a quick out for the Broadway Blues. I think this year's Lundqvist propels the Blueshirts into the Conference Finals. However, let me issue this WARNING TO ALL: Afinogenov is the fastest player with the puck that I have seen since Pavel Bure. Rangers in 6; Doggie says Sabres in 5.

NJ Devils (2) vs. Ottawa (4)
The Devils ran up against a mediocre goalie in Tampa's Johan Holmqvist in the first round and made him look pretty good except for the first game. Ottawa's Ray Emery will prove to be more formidable, making this a long series. Home ice wins out in the series. I like the Devils in 7; Doggie takes the Sens in 5.

Sit Ubu Sit...Good Dog!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

It's A Sunny Day...Really It is!

So much negativity in the news these days, it seems that our country is filled with degenerates. Although, I think the reality is that it is just a small minority of people and that it is really the media that loves to focus in on the worst case scenarios. Of course, I am not trying to diminish what took place at Virginia Tech. However, the fact is that ever since 9/11 our media has taken a "heightened state of alert" approach to their reporting. The storm, Imus, Rosie, Anna Nicole, it's no wonder we aren't all just complete shut ins deathly afraid of one another.Yet, in many ways we are just that. Unable to trust one another and driven by immense and unrealistic fear.

Let me say this, what do people really expect? So many folks do not vote and do not take part; nor do we hold our elected leaders responsible. Therefore, we end up with laws that are lax and thus people who have no business coming anywhere near a firearm end up in possession of not just one, but so many weapons it becomes too numerous to count. If you take a stand against guns or abortion, people say you are trespassing on their freedoms. Then we go to the other extreme with those who wish the U.S. would become a theocracy. We have created a society where people are so impatient that if you don't move at the exact moment the light turns green, then we have to slam on our horns. For what? Why are we in such a rush that we would risk our life and the lives of others?

We have become a country that is just not reasonable. Is there anything unreasonable about having strict laws against gun ownership? Obviously, there are people who just are not mentally fit enough to possess a gun. Is that not true? There are so many people who act nuts when they are driving a motor vehicle, do we really want those same types of people toting a pistol? How about actually making an attempt to see who the hell is coming in and out of our country, and if they already have a criminal record?

We tolerate the shrillness of Hillary Clinton and the out of touch with reality that is President G.W. Bush. We wonder why Iraq has gone so terribly wrong, but don't ever question why we fund the war from both ends? We buy oil from the Saudis and a good number of people from the House of Saud are either sympathetic to or completely in bed with al-Qaeda in Iraq. Have we even had one intelligent conversation about 9/11?

For God's sake has any of us wondered why Bill Clinton's former National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger, only got a $5,000 fine for stuffing his socks with documents from the National Archive and even destroying some of them?

This country is so much like Humpty Dumpty right now, and we all know what happened to him. The thing that really scares me, is that I'll bet you there are a lot of people who have no idea who the old Humpster was!

But that's enough of that for the moment. Before I go and save the world, I'm going to celebrate the Rangers' first playoff series win in 10 years...and while I'm at it why don't we all enjoy these two pics of Tammy Lynn Sytch, better known as Sunny!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Incredible, Rangers By Seven!

It's incredible, really, when you think about what took place last night at MSG with the Rangers trouncing the Thrashers 7-0. No not that Bob Hartley is having a tough time deciding on goalies, and who could blame him really, after having the luxury of coaching Patrick Roy in Colorado - although the Head Coach surely will be in some hot water for his ineptitude when this series ends. It also was not the astuteness of the good folks down below in Penn Station; who knew that it wasn't the number 7 train that caused the platform to shake, but the Garden faithful's response when Michael Nylander gave New York the early lead just under a minute into the game.

No, what was so incredible was not only the Blueshirts' cohesiveness and dominance, but the utter frustration that the Thrashers showed which starts with their all-world superstar, Ilya Kovalchuk. The Russian speedster went after Sean Avery in the third period after finally having enough of the antagonistic behavior of "The Grate One." It was Scott Mellanby, Atlanta's captain, saying that the team had no answer for New York after Nylander's opening salvo, which, eh em, proved to be the game winner. However, it was not a surprise to see Bobby Holik rip his coach following the game.

The Garden faithful came ready to rock and began "raising the roof" from the moment the first Rangers' skate hit Dolan's ice. The Network showed highlights from the last playoff victory in the Garden, which was against New Jersey in 1997. The last shutout by a Rangers' goalie came in 1997 too, in game four against the Devs. When was the last time a Broadway Blue netted a hat trick in the playoffs? Wayne Gretzky scored three in Philly during game two and also in game three at home to Florida during the '97 playoffs.

Last night the Rangers dazzled. The Garden partied like it hadn't since '97 and that's because there has been no reason to. Gone are Messier, Gretzky, Richter and Leetch. In are skilled vets like Brendan Shanahan and Jaromir Jagr; surrounded by a pair of 22-year-old young bucks like the in-your-face Dan Girardi and the brilliant Ryan Callahan.

So that leads us to tonight. The Rangers can end this series with a win. I'm still expecting Atlanta to show up and muster something. Could Mellanby really end his career which has been noted for his snarl and grit in such a wimpy fashion? Will the Thrashers most talented continue to crack? Can Atlanta's blueline really be a place for pedestrians only?

Does anyone in New York really want to be cocky with a 3-0 lead? The fourth game is the toughest to win, and I really do expect Atlanta to muster something. Really I do.

Eight years ago today, Wayne Gretzky's retirement party was held at MSG after a loss to the Penguins. Tonight could be time for another party; a series win for the first time in 10 years, incredible!

Monday, April 16, 2007

NHL Playoffs: It's Not Over For The Thrashers...

First off, yes my cold/cough etc. are much, much better. Usually, I get sick in the winter for two days, this time I was knocked out for a solid two weeks!

Yes, I'm not as down with this green tea with mint by Bigelow as I was with chocolate mint from Harney. But oh well, Harney said they aren't making that flavor anymore. What's up with the whole mint theme you might be asking? If your nose is stuffed up it helps you to breathe, try it you might like it. Hey, it may even become a form of recreation for you...

Yes, I'm pumped about the playoffs! Isn't everyone as fired up as Ryan Hollweg was before Game 1?

Now that you are finished doing the "Hollweg dance," let's move on...

Yes, the Rangers go home with a 2-0 lead over the Atlanta Thrashers.

Yes, they have played with great discipline and poise.

Yes, so far Head Coach Tom Renney has outdone his Atlanta counterpart Bob Hartley with the old "less is more" philosophy.

No, this does not guarantee a sweep.

Tomorrow night is a huge game for the Rangers. Every athlete loves to play in the Big Apple and Madison Square Garden. How many NHL guys have made careers out of their exploits inside MSG?

Remember Montreal's hulking forward Vinny Damphouse or Washington's John Druce?

I hear they are reinforcing The Garden's roof so it isn't blown off by the crowd noise. Expect the Thrashers to come fast and furious. Expect Keith Tkachuk, Bobby Holik, Brad Larsen, and Garnet Exelby to hit and hit and then hit some more. That's why it's so important for Henrik Lundqvist to prove why he is the reigning King of MSG, by slamming the door on the dormant Atlanta offense.

Atlanta is a frustrated team right now. But they have plenty of vets and a Stanley Cup winning coach who have been through playoff adversity before. Still, there are some questions for the Thrashers. Who starts in goal? Which line goes up against the Jagr trio? Is Sean Avery going to drive Atlanta absolutely bonkers? All I knew of Avery before he got traded to the Rangers was negative. In fact, this video really ticked me off...

Avery doing pushups is one thing, but Sean Avery has been everything the Rangers have lacked the last 10 years and he has eliminated a lot of that type of garbage from his game since becoming a Blueshirt. The Rangers gave up a prospect named Marc-Andre Cliche for Avery and many fans were not happy. But so far I like what I see from Aves.

Meanwhile, I'm a believer that if you win in the playoffs you don't change the lineups. But perhaps the Rangers go with Ryan Hollweg in place of Colton Orr. Hollweg is a more complete player and is a ferocious forechecker. The flip side is that Orr is a better fighter and with the nastiness that took place in Game 2, Orr's muscles may be needed.

The other lineup decision is if Karel Rachunek is ready, does he take the place of young d-man Thomas Pock? I say no way. Rachunek was better from January on, but I let Pock battle through the jitters. I think his upside is greater than Rachunek's.

By the way, Marc Staal's junior team, the Sudbury Wolves trail the Barrie Colts 1-0, in the second round of the OHL's playoffs. Staal, 20, is expected to join the Rangers whenever his team is eliminated from the playoffs. I wonder if he gets a look this spring with the Blueshirts.

So far Ryan Callahan has played pretty well with a limited amount of ice time playing on the third line with Petr Prucha and Matt Cullen. I'd like to see the Rangers apply more pressure to the Thrashers baffled blueline, Callahan-Cullen-Prucha could be a key to doing just that tomorrow night.

Elsewhere, I don't buy that the Devs are in trouble. I take Marty Brodeur over Johan Holmqvist any day of the week and I never look back. Can the Isles continue to play like they are the number one seed? That kind of bravado is what the NYI got from Rick DiPietro's inspiring return Saturday night? Are the kids alright in Pittsburgh? Down 2-1 to Ottawa and not looking very good? Ooffaaa! Detroit looks phenomenal right now, up 2-0 over an indifferent Calgary team. Vancouver holds a 2-1 edge over Dallas, and boy do these two teams mirror one another. Nashville and San Jose are even at 1, and the fireworks are even going off between the coaches, Barry Trotz and Ron Wilson. Meanwhile, Anaheim is up 3-0 in three one-goal games.

Coming out of left field, did you know that Talia Shire plays the shrink in the Geico commercials?

In closing, I just want to say I pity the fool who doesn't...

Stay Onsides!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Time To Get Funky Like A Monkey!

At least that's what the newest member of the W.W.E. Hall of Fame, "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes would say. Yeah, it's N.H.L. playoff time beginning tonight! I'm still very slowly getting over this nasty cold/cough, but I do thank you all for the cards and letters. A couple of things, my free-to-view card scheduled for this Friday night has been moved to Sunday evening, April 29th and to the E.C.W. Arena. Folks, there was just too much damage done to the "Rangers In Seven" Arena by the Dudleys at the conclusion of "March Matchups."

Also, congratulations go out to someone I hope to some day have an ounce of her writing ability, and that is Anne Rice. Her bestselling book Christ The Lord: Out of Egypt, is being turned into a movie. Filming will begin this fall in Israel and is set to hit theaters a year later. Ad majorem Dei gloriam!

I can't go from a positive into the very negative world that is Rosie, Imus, etc. so we'll save that for another time.

Now to the N.H.L...

(1) Buffalo vs. (8) Islanders
The Islanders squeaked in and everyone on Long Island is going wild, especially the Ice Girls. But the fact is they are going up against an absolute juggernaut that has overcome many injuries this season to win the President' Trophy as the NHL's top team. Buffalo Head Coach Lindy Ruff is one of the finest coaches in the game, while Ted Nolan I'm sure wants to beat his old team very badly, will have to wait for another time. Sabres in four.

(2) NJ Devils vs. (7) Tampa Bay
What a year for New Jersey! Martin Brodeur wins number 48 breaking Bernie Parent's record for most wins in a season and GM Lou Lamoriello fires Head Coach Claude Julien. Incidentally, we predicted a Christmas firing of Julien on this blog back when he was hired in June 2006. Tampa's John Tortorella is a very fiery coach and the Lightning do boast Vinny Lecavlier and Martin St. Louis. But the Devs will slice and dice their way through the defensively-challenged Lighting and their goalie, former Rangers' prospect, Johan Holmqvist. Devils in four.

(3) Atlanta vs. (6) N.Y. Rangers
The Thrashers first foray into the playoffs is going to be short. Atlanta, like Tampa, boasts an awesome one-two punch in, Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa. The Rangers are getting healthy, including the return of Marian's bro, Marcel. Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan will run wild in this one. The Blueshirts have to continue to play good defense and must stay out of the penalty box. Atlanta will kill the Rangers on the power play, if they don't. Still, the Rangers roll in the first round in five.

(4) Ottawa vs. (5) Pittsburgh
This is by far the best first round matchup! The offensive firepower of Ottawa is still very good despite some key departures the last couple of years. Dany Heatley netted 50 goals this year while Daniel Alfredsson was an astonishing plus 42. Wade Redden and Chris Phillips will punish any Penguin who comes across the blueline, and Ray Emery is solid and consistent between the pipes. Pittsburgh added Gary Roberts at the trade deadline and he will go a long way in helping the young Pens. Sidney Crosby will continue to dazzle along with Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal. I like the Pens on the road in 7.

(1) Detroit vs. (8) Calgary
Detroit retooled in the summer and we'll make it past the first round, despite the testy Dom Hasek in goal. The last two Cup Finals' have seen a team from Alberta, however, not this time. Calgary did just enough to squeak in past Colorado. Wings in five.

(2) Anaheim vs. (7) Minnesota
Are you really surprised that the Wild gave up the fewest goals (191) out of any team in the NHL this season? Not if you know Jacques Lemaire and Wild goalie "Ragin' Bull" Manny Fernandez. Anaheim is supposed to win it all this year, right? They may, but will struggle mightily (oops did I really use that word) against the Wild. Ducks in seven.

(3) Vancouver vs. (6) Dallas
I am really excited about this series. Vancouver finally got a goalie in Roberto Luongo (47 wins) which led to the Canucks winning the Pacific Division. Dallas, of course, has Marty Turco (38 wins) who goes into hiding like a turtle during the post season. The Stars have Sergei Zubov and Mattias Norstrom on the blueline, plus aging stars such as Mike Modano and Eric Lindros to watch out for. But there is plenty of firepower on Vancouver with the Sedin twins; Daniel leading the team with 36 goals and the very dangerous Markus Naslund. The fans of Vancouver - the Canuckleheads - want a return to the finals and they may get it this year. Vancouver in 6.

(4) Nashville vs. (5) San Jose
There's always one upset in the opening round. Well, this is a mild one but I am taking the Sharks in six games. Last year the Sharks won it in five over a Nashville team that had plenty of injuries. The situation this year is very similar, as the Preds are without Steve Sullivan and have many others players with nagging injuries. Nashville went out and got Peter Forsberg at the trade deadline and he also has battled a bunch of injuries all season. The Sharks' Joe Thornton had another great season with 92 assists, while Jonathan Cheechoo lit the lamp 37 times. Paul Kariya and Forsberg won't be able to shoulder the load for Nashville, that's why I'm taking San Jose in six.

Check your local listings and yes...

Stay Onsides!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

March Matchups: Bruno Sammartino vs. Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair

Welcome, back ladies and gentleman! This is the moment we have all been waiting for - in honor of Wrestlemania 23 which takes place tonight at 7 - this is our main event in this series that we have called, "March Matchups." The "Rangers In Seven" Arena is filled to the rafters, and although we won't break the indoor attendance record set by Wrestlemania III (93,173), we will come close. I just haven't finished counting, but I'll get there. The excitement is just too much for all of us right now, I hope it will last...For one final time here at "March Matchups," let's hook 'em up!

"Triple Threat Legend of Legends Match"
Bruno Sammartino vs. Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair

I only got to see "The Living Legend" Bruno Sammartino wrestle a handful of times in the mid to late '80s. Mostly, I heard him weekly doing color commentary with Vince McMahon and Jesse"The Body" Ventura on Superstars of Wrestling. But Bruno's reputation was carved out long before I was even a thought. Bruno Sammartino was born in Italy on October 6, 1935 and is well-known for being the longest-reigning champion of what was then called the World Wide Wrestling Federation (W.W.W.F.). Bruno held that belt across two reigns for over 12 years in total. He also had the longest world championship reign in professional wrestling history.

Incredibly, Bruno sold out Madison Square Garden a record 187 times as he was a constant headliner in the '60s and '70s.

Sammartino first got going in wrestling back in 1959. Legend has it that he is the only man to body slam Haystacks Calhoun. What's so great about that you ask? Well, Calhoun reportedly weighed 600 pounds. I have no idea how accurate these weights are with wrestlers, but let me assure you Calhoun was a giant.

Bruno wrested the W.W.W.F. World Championship title away from "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers on May 17, 1963, in just 48 seconds. Buddy Rogers for years made the ridiculous claim that he had suffered a heart attack before the bout with Sammartino. But Rogers never missed any time after his wrestling match with Bruno, so I think his claims were highly unlikely. This first championship run by Bruno was an incredible feat. He held the World Championship for seven years, eight months, and one day, which is the longest continuous world title reign in wrestling history. That record will never be broken, I believe. The reason being that wrestling is so much different now. It's not really beneficial to keep one guy on top for that long. Yes, it makes him appear invincible. But it doesn't help to put any other guys "over" with the fans. Still, it does show how much of a "sell" Bruno was.

Bruno's first reign featured legendary feuds with Gorilla Monsoon and George Steele throughout the '60s. However, on January 18, 1971, Sammartino lost the title at Madison Square Garden to Ivan Koloff.

Bruno bounced around from territory to territory after his title loss. Even heading overseas for a while. But Bruno regain the W.W.W.F. Championship, by defeating Stan Stasiak in December of 1973. His second run as champ showed Bruno to continue to beat all comers. The likes of John Tolos, Bruiser Brody, Ken Patera, Bugsy McGraw, Baron Von Raschke, Ivan Koloff, Superstar Billy Graham, Don Leo Jonathan, Angelo Mosca, Ernie Ladd and Nikolai Volkoff were no match for Sammartino, according to His second title run lasted three years, four months, and twenty days ending on April 30, 1977 when he was defeated by Superstar Billy Graham. Bruno travelled around again after that loss, and fought N.W.A. World Champ Harley Race to a one-hour draw. He returned to what was then called the W.W.F. and had a long feud with Larry Zbyszko, whom Bruno tutored for a while.

Shortly after his feud with Zbyszko which headlined a card at Shea Stadium, Bruno, who was billed as being from Pittsburgh, P.A., started doing color commentary on W.W.F. broadcasts. Many felt that he was being used by Vince McMahon because of his notoriety. Others, however, believe that Bruno was being a good sport so that his son David would get a push. His son, was a horrible wrestler and really had no business being in the ring to begin with. But got somewhat of a push as a result of being the son of a legend.

As wrestling changed so did Bruno Sammartino. The more popular the W.W.F. became, the more sour Bruno was. He eventually left the Federation and the few times he granted interviews were to bash Vince McMahon and the W.W.F., and although he had some valid points, he came off to many as a bitter, jealous man. These days Bruno only makes appearances on the indy circuit, mostly as a special commentator.

Bruno Sammartino is honored as a member of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (inducted in 1990) and the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame.

Hulk Hogan. The name is synonymous with pro wrestling. The 54-year-old, former W.W.E. superstar took wrestling from pool halls to setting indoor attendance records (Wrestlemania III when Hogan fought Andre The Giant). Hogan is recognized by the current A.W.A. as being a two-time holder of the A.W.A. World Title. The A.W.A. is where Hogan was able to cultivate his image. He had a run in the W.W.F. from the late 70s until about 1982, before going to Minnesota and the A.W.A. Hogan has stated that he was ready to quit wrestling before going to wrestle for Verne Gagne who headed up the Minny promotion. At his W.W.E. Hall of Fame induction speech, Hogan says that his two biggest breaks happened in the early 80s when he met his future wife and when he was offered a role by Sly Stallone in Rocky III.

Hogan would win the W.W.F. World Title in early 1984 and hold that belt until February 1988. The only reason he would drop the title is so that he could pursue movies. Although he has appeared in several flicks, none have really achieved great box office success. Hogan, however, has found a second career in his reality show, Hogan Knows Best.

Hulk Hogan had a couple of reigns in the W.W.F. as World Champ before jumping to W.C.W., which was owned by Ted Turner. Thus, they had the bucks to match Vince McMahon and so were able to lure many of McMahon's top talent away.

Hogan would turn heel, or bad guy, in W.C.W. mostly because the fans had become tired of him as a "good guy." Hogan had a tremendous run in W.C.W. and was World Champ six times. In total, he was the W.W.F. champ six times as well.

Hulk Hogan transcends the "sport" of pro wrestling, and any of the young guys today such as Edge, Randy Orton, and John Cena will credit him for their success. However, Hogan gives all of the credit to Vince McMahon. As a wrestler Hogan would use his power and brawling ability to win matches, but also had a pretty good repertoire of moves when he was allowed to use them, which he was able to do predominantly in W.C.W. and when he would venture over to Japan.

Today, Hogan is busy with his show and his daughter's music career.

Ric Flair was a two-time W.W.E. World Champ, a nine-time N.W.A. World Champ, and an eight-time W.C.W. World Champion, not to mention numerous other regional and tag team titles. Flair, 58, still competes in the W.W.E. on Monday Night Raw. He beat Dusty Rhodes in 1981 for his first World Title in the N.W.A. However, he nearly did not get to ever becoming a wrestler. Flair, was a passenger on board a small airplane which crashed in North Carolina in 1975. He was told he would never wrestler again due to severe neck damage. However, Flair was resilient and proved that he could overcome many odds by becoming one of the best wrestlers ever.

Flair represented the old N.W.A. very well. In those days, there was the W.W.F. in the northeast and then a bunch of territories scattered throughout the U.S. which fell under the umbrella of the National Wrestling Alliance. Flair would wrestle all the top performers back then including, Harley Race, the Von Erich family, Ron Garvin, Dusty Rhodes, The Road Warriors, Magnum T.A., Ricky Steamboat and more. Flair's persona was that of a playboy who could do great interviews and in many ways reminds me of Al Pacino. Flair often criticized Hogan for the fact that the Hulkster would often wrestle in bouts that went 15 minutes, 20 minutes most. Whereas, Flair was known for wrestling in matches that went to a one hour draw.

So who wins this bout? Well, there are many factors to consider. Bruno Sammartino was a brawler who exhibited brute strength. He also could wrestle in marathon bouts that went one hour or more. However, Bruno never brought wrestling out of the smoky pool halls. Flair was great, no question about it. There isn't a wrestler who fought from the late '70s to the current time, whom Flair has not met in the ring. The problem with the long matches that he would engage in, is that quite often they were filled with "rest holds." What is a rest hold you might ask? That's when one guy has another in a headlock or something that gives them both time to take a breather. Flair is a guy who fought them all and had no problem going from territory to territory and even to Japan to defend his belt. But that's because the N.W.A. would allow him to. Hogan took wrestling to heights that were unthinkable. He revolutionized the entire world of pro wrestling. I believe that if Hogan came back today to wrestle, the fans would still want to see him win a title - he's that well-respected. Wrestling will never see a guy like Bruno have championship runs like he did; it won't see a guy like Flair with great interviewing skills and also a guy who could wrestle any style; however, wrestling will also never know a guy like Hogan again either. The Hulkster made wrestling fun for so many people and brought fans into the arenas like never before and out of their seats cheering as if they were watching the most charismatic, electrifying person ever to compete in a ring. You know what? They were. The winner of this bout and in my book the "Legend of Legends," the one and only Hulk Hogan.

Keep it in the Ring!