Category: Olympics

The Opposite of Lightning in a Bottle

In 2004, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup, beating Jarome Iginla’s Calgary Flames in a thrilling seven game series. The following year, the National Hockey League became the first major professional sports league to cancel an entire season. After that the Bolts were never able to find that magic. Cup winning coach John Tortorella lost his job and has been seen behind the benches of the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks since then. In 2011, the Lightning went toe to toe in a tight seven game Eastern Conference Finals with the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins (Side note, that Game 7 in Boston was the tightest most evenly played hockey game I have ever seen. There were no penalties and Tim Thomas and Dwayne Roloson made for an epic battle of two aging heavyweights in net. If Nathan Horton doesn’t beat Roloson after getting set up by David Krejci and Andrew Ference, they might still be playing.), but took two steps backward in 2012 and 2013. This year, it looked like a great chance for the Bolts to make some noise, but it never materialized.

It started last summer, when the Bolts tried to work their way around the new collective bargaining agreement by buying out longtime captain Vincent Lecavalier, and orchestrating a trade to bring him back for less money. They wanted to keep Vinny, but not for his current salary cap hit. The NHL would have none of it, and Lecavalier ended up signing with the Philadelphia Flyers. Early in the season, Steven Stamkos, Tampa’s explosive young goal scorer, broke his leg in a game in Boston. It looked like Tampa’s strong start would be for nothing.

The Lightning did not relent after the injury to Stamkos. They got strong performances from goaltender Ben Bishop and newly appointed captain Martin St. Louis. The Bolts looked like the third best team in the East after the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins, and GM Steve Yzerman looked like a serious candidate for Executive of the Year, then the Olympic roster selection happened.

Yzerman, the longtime captain for the Detroit Red Wings, also served as the GM for Team Canada in the Vancouver and Sochi Olympic Games. Stevie Y had the task of drawing from the incredibly deep well of Canadian hockey talent and putting together the best team possible. Initially, Yzerman had Stamkos on the roster as a reserve, and Marty St. Louis left off the roster entirely. Yzerman was trying to balance what was best for Canada with what was best for the Lightning, and he needed his 38 year old captain for the playoffs. St. Louis took it personally. He wanted out of Tampa after that. As it turned out, Stamkos wasn’t ready to play when the Olympics rolled around, so Yzerman ended up adding St. Louis to Canada’s Olympic roster anyway. Canada ended up winning the Gold Medal for the second straight Olympic tournament, and they were so dominant that they would have done it with or without Marty.

The NHL trade deadline was not long after the Olympics ended, and despite taking home a Gold Medal, St. Louis still wanted out, so Yzerman dealt him to the New York Rangers in exchange for Rangers captain and impending free agent Ryan Callahan. Stamkos was just coming back as St. Louis was leaving so the Bolts never got that combination going at the same time despite playing really well for most of the season. Even though he got a good player in Callahan, who is ten years younger than St. Louis, there is no guarantee that he’ll stay in Tampa this summer. Callahan was a captain in New York and he could be a captain again if he signs with his native Buffalo. Stamkos was named the Lightning captain upon his return, and it looked like they still had a chance to do something this spring, until Ben Bishop got hurt.

With all the turnover and injury to the Bolts’ top forwards, Bishop was the brick wall in net that kept them afloat all season long. Bishop’s injury at the end of the regular season turned a favorable match up against the Montreal Canadiens into a four game early playoff exit. Everything that could have gone wrong for the Lightning went wrong.

When the Bolts celebrated the 10th anniversary of their Stanley Cup win last month, they chose to do it on the night where John Tortorella was in town as coach of the Canucks. Noticeably missing from the celebration were Lecavalier and St. Louis, who were key contributors to the 2004 team, but are now playing against each other in the entertaining first round playoff series between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers. There was a time where Tampa looked like a hockey hotbed despite being located in Florida, but now Lightning fans are stuck wondering what might have been.

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Back to the Real Hockey Games

Now that the Olympics have come and gone, NHL hockey is back. Here are some thoughts about the NHL as we approach the trade deadline and the playoffs.

The United States came away without a medal because a team coached by Dan Bylsma couldn’t get past Claude Julien’s defensive system or Tuukka Rask’s goaltending. Bylsma’s Pittsburgh Penguins looked like the best team in spring of 2013 in the NHL until they faced Julien, Rask, and the rest of the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals. Bylsma’s Pens scored only two goals against Tuukka in their four game sweep at the hands of the Bruins. Bylsma’s Team USA roster, which had led the tournament in scoring up to that point, did not score a single goal against Team Canada in the semifinals and were shutout once again in the Bronze Medal Game against Team Finland. Bylsma’s reputation as good hockey coach is based on winning the Stanley Cup in 2009 when he inherited a team that had been in the Stanley Cup Finals the year before and from a strong performance on 24/7 in 2010, but the sweep last spring and the collapse in the Olympics could and should cause his stock to plummet.

The fact that Rask proved to be just as effective without Julien means that he’s a great goalie and not just a pretty good goalie with the benefit of playing in Julien’s defense-first system. Tuukka was the biggest factor in Finland earning a medal in Sochi, and the biggest factor in the Bruins reaching the Stanley Cup Finals last year. Rask arrived on the scene in the NHL too late to be selected by Finland (who is historically stacked with goalie talent as a country) for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, but when then-USA backup goalie Tim Thomas struggled, Rask was the kid who carried the B’s into the playoffs, and Rask was the one who outlasted 2010 Olympic MVP Ryan Miller in a thrilling six game series against the Buffalo Sabres. Tuukka is entering the prime of his career and he has shown time and again that he can hold his own and then some with the best goaltenders in the world. Rask’s Bruin teammates Patrice Bergeron of Canada and Loui Eriksson of Sweden may have had great tournaments and earned more valuable medals, but Rask’s Bronze Medal performance was one for the ages.

Besides Rask, the best player for Team Finland was 43 year old Teemu Selanne, who played in his record tying sixth Winter Olympics and was named the MVP of the Olympic hockey tournament. This is just another accolade for Teemu, who is in the midst of his victory lap of a final NHL season. The Finnish Flash served as captain for Team Finland for the first time in 2014 and has 24 goals in Olympic play including four from the Sochi Games. He is poised to help the Anaheim Ducks make another playoff run this spring, after helping them win the franchise’s only Stanley Cup championship in 2007. The Ducks are among the NHL’s best teams, and Selanne might have enough left in the tank to make southern California go Cup Crazy once more. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Teemu has had a great career, but it’s not over just yet.

Alfie’s time. Another aging veteran player who shined in the Olympics is Swedish forward Daniel Alfredsson of the Detroit Red Wings. Alfie is 41 years old, and just added a Silver Medal to his collection to go with the Gold one he earned in Turin in 2006. Alfredsson was a face of the Ottawa Sentaors for much of his career, and was the NHL’s longest tenured captain prior to signing with the Red Wings in the summer of 2013. Like Jarome Iginla, who I wrote about a few weeks ago, Alfie has done almost everything you could possibly want to do in a hockey career except win the Stanley Cup. He’s over 40, but he can still play at a high level. The Wings are in a tough division and a tough conference, but it’s the same division and conference Alfie has played in his entire career. The Bruins, Habs, and Leafs don’t scare him, and he commands a lot of respect from the players and coaches of those teams. It’s just another storyline to look out for this spring.

Sabres trade Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues. We’ve already had the first major trade of the season. Ryan Miller, the star goalie and face of the franchise in Buffalo was traded to St. Louis. It’s a sad time for Sabres fans, but they’re trying to rebuild, and Miller is a free agent at the end of the season, and it’s not fair to him to waste the prime of his career on a roster where he doesn’t have a chance to win. In return, Buffalo is getting a pretty good goalie in Jaroslav Halak, but this trade really makes the Blues one of the top teams this spring. St. Louis has been building towards something big for a few years now, and this trade just might be what it takes to put them over the top. Miller will join fellow United States Olympians David Backes and shootout hero T. J. Oshie in an attempt to being Lord Stanley’s Cup to the Show Me State for the first time. Miller, who sad on the bench in Sochi behind Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings, will certainly have a chip on his shoulder when the Kings come to town in what has become one of the best rivalries in the Western Conference. It should be a lot of fun to watch.

Canada wins Gold, but they really want a certain silver Cup. 1993, the year that the Montreal Canadiens defeated Wayne Gretzky’s Los Angeles Kings, was the last time a Canadian team won the last game of the season and got to hoist the Stanley Cup. The following year, Mark Messier and the New York Rangers defeated the Vancouver Canucks in seven games and a streak of American teams dominating the NHL began. If the regular season ended today, the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs would be the only two Canadian teams in the tournament. The Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets are close, but currently a couple points out of the final playoff spot in the very tight Western Conference, and the Ottawa Senators could get back into it with a little winning streak, but the once mighty Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames have struggled mightily this season. It’s been a rough stretch for Canadian hockey fans. The Flames probably should have beaten the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, and the Canucks were heavily favored before losing in seven games to the Bruins in 2011. The Oilers were lucky to be in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, but they have failed to reach the playoffs since then. Hockey fans are passionate and territorial by nature, and Canada takes hockey more seriously than any other country on the planet. It must be sickening seeing cities like Anaheim, Los Angeles, Tampa, Dallas, Raleigh, and Denver winning the Cup when fans in those cities didn’t pay attention to hockey a generation ago. It might not happen this year (and quite frankly, I hope it doesn’t since the Habs and Leafs would have to get past my beloved Bruins to so), but someday the Stanley Cup will return to Canada, and it won’t be just to hand it off to the American team that won it on the road.

Shame on you, Mr. Jacobs. I’ve written on here before about my love for hockey and my love for the Boston Bruins, but sometimes it’s just so hard to love them. It’s not because of the players on the ice. Those guys are great. I love the black and gold uniforms with the classic Eight Spoked B logo. I love the physical play that is synonymous with the Boston Bruins. I love Bruins fans. They get it. The amount of love I have for the Bruins’ players and fans is equal to the amount of hate I have for the Bruins’ owner. Jeremy Jacobs is an old, cheap, scumbag that could make Mr. Burns look charitable. He underspent on the team for years and locked the NHL players out three times to squeeze more money out of them. He lives in Buffalo and clearly only cares about making money. He’s lucky to have bought a hockey team in a market that loves it’s hockey or he’s never be able to get away with what he does. In a league where many teams struggle to sell tickets, Bruins tickets are hard to come by these days. What he’s doing now is making it so the regular hockey fan can’t afford more than one or two Bruins games a year, if that. Season ticket holders were notified of a huge increase in ticket prices for 2014-15, and they are rightfully outraged. Since 2008, prices will have more than doubled. Jacobs almost got the 2012-13 season cancelled like he did in 2004-05, and we would have been too fed up to come back if the team weren’t so good. This is the thanks we get for supporting a team when we probably shouldn’t. I want hockey to be successful and I want the NHL to do well, but guys like Jeremy Jacobs are the reason normal people can’t stand rich people, and are in the way of the NHL growing into a more mainstream sport. Shame on you.

T. J. Sochi

It wasn’t quite the Miracle on Ice. Elimination would have to have been on the line for it to come close to the most iconic Olympic event in American history, but it was, however, an unforgettable event that is the perfect example of why the Winter Olympics are great. On the morning of February 15 (well, it was morning in the United States, anyway), the United States defeated host nation Russia in a showdown for the ages.

The names in this game were enough to make it epic. Patrick Kane. Ryan Kesler. Joe Pavelski. Ryan Callahan. Phil Kessel. Jonathan Quick. Pavel Datsyuk. Ilya Kovalchuk. Alex Ovechkin. Evgeni Malkin. Sergei Bobrovsky. Who needs an All-Star Game when you can have the best players in the world playing for their respective countries. In the Olympics, they use a larger sheet of ice than the NHL does, which led to a more wide-open game for players to show off their speed and crisp passing skills.

Russia has a lot riding on this Olympic tournament. It’s more than the pressure of hosting the Olympics. Team USA consists entirely of NHL players, while the Russian team has mostly NHL talent with a handful of KHL players. This is about the Kontinental Hockey League trying to surpass the National Hockey League as the most prestigious hockey league on the planet. Ilya Kovalchuk could be playing in New Jersey, and Alexander Radulov could be playing in Nashville, but they chose to play in their native Russia. The KHL hopes this is the start of a new trend where the best European players will come back to Europe, and the young ones will never go to North America in the first place.

Regulation was not enough time to decide this game, and neither was overtime. The Unites States and Russia worked to a 2-2 draw that would have to be broken by a shootout. T.J. Oshie of the St. Louis Blues went first for Team USA, and scored. Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins went first for Russia, and missed. James van Riemsdyk of the Toronto Maple Leafs went second for Team USA, and missed. Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings went second, and missed. Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks went third for the United States, and missed. Ilya Kovalchuk, who left behind the twelve remaining years of his NHL contract with the New Jersey Devils to return to the KHL last summer, went third for Russia, and scored. And so the shootout after the overtime went into extra innings.

An interesting difference between the NHL and Olympic shootout rules is that in the Olympics, after the third round of shootouts, a team can tap a player who has already shot to go again, whereas in the NHL, everyone has to go before anyone can go twice. Team USA coach Dan Bylsma decided to ride T. J. Oshie for all of the extra shootouts the way a baseball manager might ride a hot hitter in October. Oshie went 4 for 6 in the shoothout, while the Russian team went back and forth between Datsyuk and Kovalchuk. In the 8th round, Kovalchuk was stopped by American goaltender and UMass alum Jonathan Quick, and Oshie had a chance to put the Russians away. He got it past Sergei Bobrovsky one final time and bars all across America began to celebrate. It wasn’t even noon yet. It doesn’t get much better than that.

A win over a powerhouse like Russia improves the standing for the United States, but it does not mean they have the Gold Medal in the bag. Let’s not forget that Team USA beat Canada early on, but lost to the Neighbors to the North in sudden death overtime in the Gold Medal Game. T. J. Oshie has gone from being a name hockey fans know to a name the most casual of American sports fans will remember for a long time. That’s the beauty of the Olympics.

Bode is Back

File:2014 Winter Olympics logo.svg

I love the Winter Olympics. It’s something I spend four years looking forward to. It’s the kind of thing that can get people interested and excited for sports they otherwise never follow. Hockey is already my favorite sport, but the Olympics is a great time to show it off. Football and baseball may have a stronger foundation in American heritage, and basketball has the 1992 Dream, but hockey has America’s most celebrated moment in Olympic history. Every four years, people suddenly become experts in figure skating, speed skating, alpine skiing, snowboarding, luge, bobsledding, and curling…and it’s awesome!

Since the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Bode Miller has been a household name in the United States (the only other skiers I could name off the top of my head are Lindsey Vonn and Picabo Street, neither of whom are competing in Sochi). The New Hampshire native skier is now 36 years old and competing in his fourth Olympics. We’ve seen him evolve from American hero in 2002, to drunken antihero in 2006, to the golden redemption story in 2010. He’s really talented, and he really loves to ski, but it’s not always about competition for him. He’s the Rob Gronkowski of skiing. He trains hard, and competes hard, and at the end of the day, he parties hard. There’s a lot to like about that approach to life.

Miller won three Silver Medals in Salt Lake City, and a Gold and a Bronze in Vancouver, but was shut out in Turin in 2006. There were high expectations for Bode after his breakout performance in 2002. With great success comes a responsibility to be a role model and carry yourself like a gentleman. Bode Miller didn’t see it that way, though. Even in defeat, we could see that Miller was incredibly talented, but it was frustrating to watch as tabloid after tabloid came out with more stories of all the partying he was doing in Italy while he wasn’t winning anything. In 2010, at 32, Miller shut everyone up by winning two medals, including his first Gold. The other day, he recorded the fasted time in the Olympic qualifying trial, and looks poised for another medal. The guy is really good at what he does. He takes a sport that is both thrilling and dangerous, and he makes it look easy. I hope he’s there in South Korea when he’s 40, just a guy going skiing as fast as possible because it’s really fun. He’s at a stage in his career where he can still perform at a high level, but it’s uncertain how much longer he can keep that up. It’s a lot like the way people talk about Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, who are around the same age as Miller, but those guys have a chance to compete for the Super Bowl every year. There are other ski competitions, but none that get the kind of audience and prestige as the Winter Olympics. Time will tell, I suppose.

I love the Olympics, but sometimes people take it too seriously. Sure, these athletes are representing their country, and there is a lot of pride and honor in doing that, but people don’t pursue athletic achievement just for the honor. People learn to ski because it’s fun. They play hockey because their friends are playing. Bode Miller gets to show off the hard work he’s put in on the world’s biggest stage, and he’s having a good time while he’s there. He gets it.

World Tour Z

The 2010 Vancouver Olympics were exciting because it showcased some of the best hockey players in the world, and the tournament came down to the United States and Canada. In the Gold Medal Game, Patrice Bergeron and Tim Thomas were both dressed and representing their countries. This year, the Boston Bruins have five players going to Sochi to represent their countries in the Olympics. They are five players from five different countries, and while they have nobody on Team USA (maybe next time, Torey Krug!), it is a good cross section of the NHL talent represented, and some of the most important players for a team that has been to the Stanley Cup Finals twice since the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. It should be an excellent tournament once again, and the B’s will be well represented among the countries expected to make it interesting. Other teams may have more Olympians, but the Bruins have guys who are as important to their homelands as they are for the team that pays them in Boston.

Zdeno Chara, Slovakia. Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara has left the team a couple games early to carry the flag for his native Slovakia in the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The Bruins gave him their blessing, because something like that is a once in a lifetime opportunity and a great honor. Chara headlines the list of five Bruins who will be playing in Sochi this month, and when they all come back, he will resume his duties as their undisputed leader regardless of who takes home the Gold. In the Olympics, Chara is the captain for Slovakia. As one of the best lockdown defensemen on the planet and the tallest player in NHL history, he will be tasked with slowing down the most skilled players from each team he faces. It’s the kind of thing he does on a nightly basis for the Bruins, but is taken for granted because he’s been here since 2006 and he’s so consistent. In 2010, Chara and Slovakia made it to the Bronze Medal Game, but lost to Finland. In Sochi, he’s sleeping on a bed that is too small for him, so it’s likely he’ll be literally restless in his 2014 quest for an Olympic Medal.

Patrice Bergeron, Canada. Patrice Bergeron is the longest tenured Bruin, and the second in command in the dressing room after Big Z. This is Bergy’s second time representing Canada in the Olympics. His first ended with his first of two championship celebrations on the ice in Vancouver (the second was when the B’s won the Stanley Cup in the summer of 2011), and he’s back on the world’s most talented roster looking for another Gold Medal. The Canadian team is loaded, as evidenced by their ability to add Martin St. Louis to the team this week to replace his Tampa Bay Lightning teammate Stephen Stamkos. Bergeron is a great two-way player, a perennial Selke Trophy candidate, and is one of the best in the business at winning faceoffs. He’s competing with the like of Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews for ice time, but the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year showed that he is more than capable of holding his own against the best players in hockey.

David Krejci, Czech Republic. This season, David Krejci was named an alternate captain for the Bruins for the first time in his career. He’s a good two-way player for his size, perhaps not as strong defensively than Bergeron, but certainly more skilled in the offensive zone, and he plays his best hockey in big games. Krejci was a force for the Czech Republic in 2010, and the broken wrist that took him out of the lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers that spring was the catalyst for the Bruins playoff collapse that year. Since then, he’s helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 2011 and come within a couple bounces of the puck from doing it again in 2013, as their best playoff scorer. In Sochi, he’ll get a chance to play with his childhood hero and former Bruin teammate Jaromir Jagr once again. If the Czechs want to win their first Gold Medal since 1998, they will need David Krejci to do what David Krejci does in these kinds of games.

Tuukka Rask, Finland. While Chara, Bergeron, and Krejci have been the most important skaters for the B’s for quite some time, Tuukka Rask has become the anchor between the pipes that Tim Thomas once was. In 2010, Thomas was having a down year, and the rookie Rask had to step up just to keep Boston in the playoff picture. While Timmy got to represent Team USA in Vancouver (He didn’t think the government was too big when he got to wear a USA jersey or accept a hockey scholarship at a public university, but it was when he was invited to meet the President? That’s another rant for another day.), Rask arrived on the scene too late to be considered for Finland’s historically deep pool of goalies. Miikka Kiprusoff got the starting job for Finland, and then he was shelled by the scoring attack of the American team in the semifinal round. In the spring of 2010, Rask ended up beating Olympics MVP Ryan Miller (who started ahead of Thomas for Team USA in Vancouver) and the Buffalo Sabres in the first round of the playoffs, before they infamous 3-0 collapse against Philly. Rask did not play a single playoff minute of the B’s 2011 Stanley Cup run, but was the biggest reason the team returned to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2013, earning himself a wealthy contract extension this summer. Kiprusoff retired last spring, and now it’s Tuukka Time in Finland. Rask is more fundamentally sound than Thomas ever was, and is rarely caught out of position. Finland is a hockey powerhouse, and he’ll help keep them in it.

Loui Eriksson, Sweden. Loui is still a newcomer for the Bruins. He was dealt to Boston from the Dallas Stars on the 4th of July, just weeks after the B’s surrendered the Stanley Cup Finals to the Chicago Blackhawks. Eriksson is a good two way player, who is starting to find his stride after getting concussed twice in the first half of the season. Tyler Seguin, who was sent to Dallas in that trade, has played better this season, but did not make the cut for the stacked Canadian team. Fairly or unfairly, their careers will always be compared because of that trade. Ultimately, Eriksson is a better fit for what Boston tries to do, and Seguin is a good scorer on a team that is still out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference, as they sit 10th in the West heading into the Olympic Break. Hopefully a strong performance for Sweden can for Loui can carry over into some NHL momentum as the Bruins hope for another deep playoff run.

The Bruins don’t have anyone playing for the USA or Russia, the two other powerhouse teams in the tournament. The Russians have a lot of pressure as the host country, and Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk have been looking forward to this tournament ever since their earlier than expected playoff exit in Vancouver four years ago. As for the Americans, they came so close to winning it all in 2010, and want to prove that their run to the Gold Medal Game was no fluke. It should be a fun couple weeks for hockey fans around the globe!

Some Things Never Change

Warning: The following post contains spoilers from the recent Simpsons episode “Steal This Episode.”

Nothing lasts forever. Well, nothing but The Simpsons and the hockey careers of Teemu Selanne and Jaromir Jagr, it seems.

This Sunday, The Simpsons proved yet again that they are still funny and still relevant after 25 seasons with their latest episode, “Steal This Episode.” Homer is tired of getting movies spoiled for him at the water cooler at work by Lenny and Carl, and he’s even more frustrated at all the ads before a movie in the theaters, so Bart teaches him how to illegally download movies from the Internet. When asked how he knows how to do that, Bart simply replies “I’m under 30,” which is funny because Bart has been a ten year old for 25 years now. If he aged like a real person, and not like a cartoon, he’d be old enough to run for president.

The Simpsons had already been on TV for a few years when Selanne and Jagr broke into the NHL in the early 90s. Since then, they have taken the league by storm and turned into two of the greatest goal scorers the game of hockey has ever seen. In fact, they are the two highest scoring European-born players in NHL history.

Teemu Selanne was selected 10th overall in the 1988 NHL Draft by the Winnipeg Jets, and made his NHL debut in 1992, the same year he played in his first Olympics for Finland. The Finnish Flash played two stints with the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks, the second of which started in 2005, continues to this day, and includes winning the franchise’s only Stanley Cup Championship in 2007.

Jagr was drafted 5th overall in the NHL Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990 and made his NHL debut that same year. He won the Stanley Cup in 1991 and 1992, but left Pittsburgh after a decade to take his talents to the Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Avangard Omsk (KHL), Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, and now the New Jersey Devils. For over twenty years, he has been the aloof rock star hockey has needed, and deserved. In 1998, the NHL allowed its players to compete in the Olympics for the first time, and Jagr has been representing his native Czech Republic ever since, including winning a Gold Medal at the Nagano Olympic Games in 1998.

The 2014 Sochi Games will be Teemu’s sixth Olympics and Jagr’s fifth. These two have accomplished everything a hockey player dreams of, but they’re not done having fun just yet.

With the 2014 Winter Olympics coming up, there are a lot of Olympic mainstays that will not be present. Chris Drury, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Brian Rafalski are no longer skating for the Team USA. Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger will not be there to secure Team Canada’s blue line, and Jarome Iginla and Joe Thronton will not be there to set up Crosby anymore. Nicklas Lidstrom will not be lacing up for Team Sweden.

In the winter of 2010, Lost was still airing new episodes on ABC in the midst of its final season, Breaking Bad was starting to become the most talked about show on cable, and The Office and 30 Rock were anchoring NBC’s Thursday night lineup. Four years later, all of those shows have ended, and Jay Leno is giving The Tonight Show (presumably) for real this time, to Jimmy Fallon, while he was taking it back from Conan O’Brien right around the time of the Vancouver Olympics. Four years later, The Simpsons are still going strong. It doesn’t seem that long ago that Homer and Marge were headed to Vancouver to represent the United States in couples curling. Bob Costas guest starred in that episode. It was very funny. I hope the show lasts forever.

One of the highlights of the episode was when Judd Apatow, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, and Seth Rogen all guest starred as themselves starring in a pirated movie “based on Judd Apatow’s life, starring his family, and ad libbed by his friends” as Homer put it. He also showed, in his backyard pirate theater, the latest installment of the “Cosmic Wars” franchise, which created a loophole in which episodes one through three never actually happened, as many Star Wars fans probably hope will happen for them. 

Homer ended up getting busted by an FBI agent voiced by sitcom veteran Will Arnett (On a side note, it feels weird referring to a man as young as Mr. Arnett as a “sitcom veteran” the way you would for Ted Danson, Julia Louis-Dreyfus,  or Ed O’Neill, but after Arrested Development, Sit Down, Shut Up, Running Wilde, Up All Night, and now The Millers, as well as memorable guest appearance on 30 Rock, The Office, Parks and Recreation, and The Simpsons, the shoe totally fits.), who actually played an FBI agent on a couple episodes of The Sopranos. The feds got tipped off when Marge tried to pay Hollywood back for the movies Homer stole. After that, the Simpson family needed to seek asylum from the Swedish government like Edward Snowden, and they recreated an iconic scene from The Fugitive. There was so much to love, and it reminded me why we need The Simpsons so much. The world is changing, but we can now take comfort in that fact that an edgy new show once condemned by Barbara Bush is now as accepted and beloved an American institution as the game of baseball.

These things have to end eventually, right? Teemu Selanne claims to be done at the end of this year, but we’ll have to check back in four years. Jagr claims he’ll play hockey until his legs fall off, and I want to believe him.

Yzerman’s Olympic Selections

Steve Yzerman made a name for himself as a leader of men in his playing days with the Detroit Red Wings. Since hanging up his skates, he’s risen through the ranks and become one of the best executives in the NHL, first as an assistant GM in Detroit, then overseeing the 2010 Canadian Olympic team that won the Gold Medal Game over the United States, and now as the GM for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Today, he’s back at it for Team Canada as he announced the final roster for the country that will always be favored in the Olympics. Last week, Team USA GM Brian Burke took a lot of heat for his roster selections, most notably picking Blake Wheeler over Bobby Ryan, but Canada has a much deeper pool of high end talent that their Neighbors to the South.

Here is Canada’s roster for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi:

Forwards
Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars)
Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins)
Jeff Carter (LA Kings)
Sidney Crosby (Pitsburgh Penguins)
Matt Duchene (Colorado Avalanche)
Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks)
Chris Kunitz (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Patrick Marleau (San Jose Sharks)
Rick Nash (New York Rangers)
Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks)
Patrick Sharp (Chicago Blackhawks)
Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning)
John Tavares (New York Islanders)
Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks)

Defensemen
Jay Bouwmeester (St. Louis Blues)
Drew Doughty (LA Kings)
Dan Hamhuis (Vancouver Canucks)
Duncan Keith (Chicago Blackhawks)
Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis Blues)
P.K. Subban (Montreal Canadiens)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (San Jose Sharks)
Shea Weber (Nashville Predators)

Goalies
Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks)
Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens)
Mike Smith (Phoenix Coyotes)

This roster is loaded. Only Canada could leave such a combination of young talent (Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic, Taylor Hall, Wayne Simmonds, etc.) and veteran talent (Mike Richards, Joe Thornton, Jarome Iginla, and Martin Brodeur) off the roster, and still look this good. I’d love to see Iggy and Looch playing for Canada, but Bergeron deserved it more, and I’d rather see those guys healthy and ready to go for the playoffs. I would have liked to see Old Man Marty Brodeur play in yet another Olympics, but Carey Price will probably be the guy in net if it were up to me.

It’s still a few weeks away, but I’m already pumped for the Winter Olympics. It should be a good one!