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Paul Kukla

About Paul
Paul Kukla is the man behind the excellent Kukla's Korner blog site. The longtime NHL fan and devoted Red Wings' supporter is joining NHL.com as a regular contributor this season. His blogs are a must read for hockey fans.

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E-mail your comments at: pk@kuklaskorner.com

Recent Posts
Holiday produces a hockey poll
Memories of the season
Spending a day with Morley Scott
'AO' answers his mail
Under my pillow - almost

Season Archive
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Holiday produces
a hockey poll

Over the last 72 hours, I was able to visit with hockey fans who also happen to be part of my family and friends network. While enjoying the holiday together, we also took a long look at the state of the NHL, and more specifically, the direction it is heading.

All of the people I talked to are die-hard fans, knowledgeable and have been watching the game for a minimum of 20 years. The vast majority of them feel the game is headed in the right direction and do enjoy their nightly fix of NHL games available to them.

Some of the positive feedback I received from them include:

* The games are much more enjoyable to watch. Even if a team is down by two-three goals, a chance of a comeback always exists.

* The stars are proving their worth. Even though the trap or a version of the trap is making a comeback, it seems the players are handling it much better with speed through the neutral zone. They have noticed more penalty calls in the neutral zone, when a defensive player attempts to neutralize the speed with a hook or a grab, the refs are blowing the whistle.

* My network of friends really have enjoyed the games that have been called from "between the benches". The quick interviews with players and coaches during stoppage of play are some of the things they hope to see more of.

* The web is the place to go for anything hockey. From the standard sites to hockey blogs, they can find anything they want when it comes to hockey. They tend to check these sites numerous times during their work day and have been impressed by how quickly hockey news is updated.

* They have become fans of other teams too. Instead of just rooting for the home team, they tend to keep their eye on two or three other teams. I was surprised to hear many will "dvr" other games and watch them using the fast-forward feature. They can watch a game in about seven minutes, see all of the highlights and move on to another game.

Now on to the things they want to see improved:

* Local and national, traditional media coverage. The No. 1 complaint by far. Hockey in the newspapers, radio and TV has been poor. Updates of breaking hockey news doesn't get mentioned or talked about.

* Non-disclosure of injuries. If player is hurt, they want to know about it. The upper and lower body injury status needs to go.

* The "goal under review" process needs to be quicker and they want a full explanation from the ref of why a goal was or was not awarded.

* They want to see more embellishment calls. Too many players are reacting and acting to a slight hook or hold and should be penalized for it.

* Allow the defensemen to be a little more physical in front of the net. Right now, they feel their hands are tied and offensive players are allowed too much freedom.

* Establish a set standard for goalie interference. A goalie interference call in one game is not called the same in the next game.

* The overtime period seems to be lacking a bit. Teams are playing not to lose instead of going all out offensively.

* The shootout needs five rounds.

* Somebody please invent a stick that won't break!

***

My hockey group anticipates a mad dash for the final few playoff spots in each conference. Taking a quick glance at the conference standings, I too feel we may see a race to the end unlike any other year. Even though the NHL has not reached the midway point of the schedule, every point counts and teams are well aware of how valuable each game is, and for us hockey fans, that is a good thing.

Posted by Paul @ 10:54 a.m.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Memories of the season

Forget the train running around the bottom of the Christmas tree, I would rather see a beautiful stick hockey game, with immaculate players painted in white and a red winged-logo.

Candy canes hanging from the branches of the tree? Not in my home. Try hockey cards from the early 1960's with a hole punched in at the top, a string looped through it, and players like Moose Vasko, Gump Worsley, Eddie Shack and Pit Martin decorate my tree.

No star topping off the tree, instead a flashing red goal light annoys the heck out of first-time visitors, but they better get used to it, I never turn it off.

I have mini hockey stick ornaments, hockey helmet ornaments and even skate laces replacing shiny tinsel.

When I was just a kid, the local creek would freeze over about this time of year. It had twists and turns, never reaching more than 20 feet wide, but was about two miles long. All of the kids would gather there on Christmas morning, new skates on, some with the double runners, and skate until our legs would ache so much we had to be carried to the car. Wearing your favorite team jersey was not in style then, instead, we were kept warm in snow suits, some so stiff we could barely move our arms or neck in them.

But we skated, we tried out our new hockey sticks, pucks and hockey gloves, the ones that almost came up to our elbows (my parents always bought things bigger for me, I would grow into it). My CCM skates were two sizes too big, about four pair of socks would fix that. Gliding on the ice all of us would try to mimic our favorite players. Howe, Bergman, Gadsby, Hull, Beliveau, Mikita all skated together, we were in heaven.

We never had nets back in the days, we would just put a few tree limbs on the ice and that was our goal. We did have a kid who was not a very good skater, so of course we stuck him in goal. His parents bought him a pair of second-hand goalie pads, and to this day I remember the sound of our shots hitting those pads, thump, thump, thump. We eventually started the traditional skate by the goalie before the first drop of the puck to give him a tap on his pads, the kid felt like he was at the top of the world.

Oh how I long for those days. Now we have games such as Xbox 360, Play Station whatever, hand held electronic games, and even games that can be played over our phones. Kids don't tough it out as much as we did. But those are the same words my father used 40 years ago and children of today will be saying the same thing in another 40 years.

We still have our memories, and those last forever. I recently drove by our creek and was disappointed to find a condo complex instead. But I know deep down, below the foundation of the condos, a few lost hockey pucks still exist and maybe a few broken hockey sticks too.

If you'd like to share your hockey related memories, feel free to comment here. I am sure other hockey fans would be interested in your stories.

Have a safe and peaceful Holiday Season!!!

Posted by Paul @ 11:19 a.m.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Spending a day with Morley Scott

"He shoots, he scores", is music to my ears. There probably isn't a day in the year that I don't repeat those words or think about them.

I have always wanted to go into hockey broadcasting. Always wanted to sit in a gondola, hight above the ice, calling out the names of the players I idolized. I wanted to travel with the team, fire off questions to players and have my voice heard by millions of people on a nightly basis.

Maybe it was the thought of starting off in places like Thunder Bay, or Moose Jaw, or Des Moines, but the thought of leading a less glamorous life and starting off at the bottom rung of the ladder told me to go in a different career direction.

Over the last year and a half, I have established an e-mail relationship with Morley Scott, one of the radio guys for the Edmonton Oilers. Occasionally I would get a "pat on the back" e-mail from Morley, giving me encouragement to continue blogging. During the long playoff run by the Oilers last season, I would e-mail Morley, putting myself in his place, just imagining the highs and lows he was going through, covering the team on a daily basis.

We always made plans to meet each other in person when our paths crossed, but because of our busy schedules, we have yet to make this happen. But I did jump at the chance to have Alanah, a hockey blogger who is joining me at my blog site, to spend a full game day with Morley when the Edmonton Oilers visited Vancouver recently.

As a lead-in to the "Day in the life of Morley Scott", I had a few questions for him.

Who did he idolize or pattern himself after?

Morley Scott: He will hate me for this, but when I was a kid, I loved listening to Rod Phillips (Edmonton radio play by play voice) do games, and now to get a chance to work with him is very special, he does a game like no other. I grew up in Toronto, and that of course meant I spent lots of time listening to Foster and Bill Hewitt, (one of our two dogs is named foster chewitt). I never liked Danny Gallivan that much as a kid, because I did not liked the Canadiens, but hearing his call now I realize just how good he was. Among todays broadcasters, I enjoying listening to Doc Emrick a lot, a real wordsmith, makes every play interesting.

While on a team flight, do you interact with the players or are they basically left alone?

MS: The players are left alone, at the back of the plane ... coaches, trainers, staff and media towards the front. The players have their space, we have ours. We have lots of time to talk with the players at other times.

With the NHL streaming the radio broadcasts over the internet, do you think about reaching the listeners world-wide instead of just the Edmonton area?

MS: Not really, I mostly feel that we are broadcasting to Oilers fans, and sometimes I am very surprised to hear where they are when they are listening. We receive e-mails from fans who have caught a game here and there from all over the world. The internet is a great tool for any fan who does not live in the city of his favorite team.

***

I would like to thank the Vancouver Canucks for providing media credentials to Alanah, who by the way, may have been the first female hockey blogger to receive working credentials for an NHL game. Also a big thanks to Morley and the Edmonton Oilers for making this happen.

Now on to the "Day in the life of Morley Scott".

***

I didn't know Buffalo was having problems on their powerplay. You would think a team near the top of the standings would have a very potent PP.

We are witnessing a big transformation in Buffalo since last season offensively. This year, Buffalo has scored 77% of their goals at even strength. Last season, they scored only 57% of their goals at even strength.

You want hockey notes, visit Sharkspage, you will spend some time there.

On the Forecheck looks at teams that are playing lockdown hockey.

So who are the best defensive teams in the NHL this year? A quick look at the Goals Allowed standings is a decent place to start, but if we dig into the details of shots given up by each team (both quantity and quality), we get a better picture of which teams are truly locking down their opponents, and which ones are getting bailed out by stellar goaltending.

On Frozen Blog selects their "All Time Team".

Imagine yourself as coach of a team tied late in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. There’s one minute left. At your disposal for the game’s final shift you have any five skaters from the NHL’s past or present. In their prime. Of course you’ll need a premiere backstopper as well. Use any criteria of your choosing, but the bottom line is: you’re trying to punch one home with one final push and earn Lord Stanley’s glory.

Have you tried a Puck Smoothie yet?

Posted by Paul @ 10:52 a.m.

Monday, December 11, 2006

'AO' answers his mail

You may recall recently I asked NHL.com readers to submit your questions to Alexander Ovechkin. Hundreds of you responded and Alex took time out of his very busy schedule to answer eight questions and will answer another eight in the very near future.

Thanks to the Washington Capitals for making this happen and a special thanks goes out to Nate Ewell, Director of Media Relations for the Caps.

***

1. Alex, can I call you Alex, or should it be Mr. Ovechkin? I loved your skates at the Olympics, with the red blades, was there a special significance to that, or was it just because they looked so cool? Also any advice to give a second-year player trying to make a college hockey team? Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks a lot.

-- Andy Rusnak

Please, call me Alex. Those skates were our equipment manager's idea. We always do some crazy stuff, and I thought it was cool. Glad you noticed them.

As for advice, work hard and listen to your parents. Most important, practice, practice, practice and always love the game.

***

2. You've scored on your feet. You've scored flat on your back. When are you going to try winning a shootout with a goal scored from between your legs?

And when you play the Devils next, are you planning to hang a five-spot or so on Martin Brodeur as payback for him whining about your Robocop-visor and getting it banned? (Look, somebody had to ask these kinds of questions--might as well be me.)

-- The Acid Queen

Maybe I have to try it. I have to do something different in a shootout - thanks for the idea.

As for Brodeur, I want to score on him anyway. And I don't care about the visor question. That doesn't bother me.

***

3. Hey Alex, are you excited for what will probably be your first All-Star Game and possibly playing with Malkin or Crosby? Hope you do well and lay somebody out for me.

-- Thopson Smith

I am very excited. I hope I get to go - and thank you if you voted for me.

It will be great to be around so many great players and to play with the guys like Malkin and Crosby. I've played with Malkin before, but never Sid.

***

4. Alex, I saw many times in pictures that you often put your tongue out of your mouth when skating. The same sometimes Malkin does. Have you ever noted it?

-- Leo from Riga, Latvia

I've seen it in highlights, but I don't mean to do it. When I do it, I don't even know.

***

5. Hi Alex, I rate you in the top three most exciting players in the league next to Daniel Briere and Marian Gaborik. But you already have a better single season points total and that was your rookie year. Do you regularly check where you are in the stats -- not for individual glory, but to build upon last year and to try to get more?

-- Tim Burrows, Midlands, England

Wow, I didn't know I had fans in England. Of course, I look at stats. I want to see where I stand. I don't worry about what I did last year. This is a different year, but I want to be with the best players.

***

6. It is much publicized that when you came to the NHL last season, you refused special assistance with language, and that you embraced North American culture. You also have a great deal of patriotism for "Mother Russia". What do you think it is about "America" that attracts you so much?

Thanks for bringing respect back to DC Ovy!

-- Mark Tucker, Sykesville, MD

I like my teammates a lot and want to be one of the guys - in on the jokes, laughing. I try to joke, too. As for what I like about America, hockey is number one. NHL is the best league in the world, and I want to play against the best.

***

7. Alex, I know you must have played NHL 2007. Honestly, have you gone into the game and changed your personal stats? Would you?

How about leading the Caps to the Stanley Cup in season mode?

-- Matt Haynick, Michigan

I play all the time, and I always win with the Caps. And I don't need to change anything - I'm the best sniper.

***

8. I'm a 14-year-old boy who is playing in bantam double (B). I'm a first-year player, so I'm still not used to the contact. I was just wondering if you had any advise about how to hit, or how to take a hit, anything that would make it a bit easier. Also I notice when your taking a shot, you put a lot of force into your stick and it flexes a lot. Do you recommend a stick with a lot of flex or one without?

-- Dylan Daunais, Chambly, Quebec

My best advice is to always play hard. If you play hard and skate hard, you don't feel the hits so much and they are easy to give.

Your stick is all about what feels good to you. I spend a lot of time working on my sticks. Practice with different sticks and use what feels best to you.

Posted by Paul @ 11:17 a.m.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Under my pillow - almost

I had a really bad day yesterday. Numerous website issues at Kukla's Korner kept me busy the whole day and by 6 p.m. or so, I was drained, tired and just wanted to take a Nestea plunge, with a little bit of the adult beverage on the side.

My plans for the night were to watch the Boston-Montreal game on Versus, which I did and thoroughly enjoyed the game- Last team with the puck wins!

Next up was the Oilers and Canucks, but my mind and body said go to bed, you will be sorry in the morning if you don't. I rise early on Tuesday's, about 5 a.m. in order to write my blog for NHL.com and even though I wanted to watch the game, I decided to try something old school.

I am not a tech savvy person, but I do love the big-boy toys. I recently purchased the new Sony Micro PC, the one you may have seen in action if you saw the recently released Casino Royale movie. This PDA sized laptop comes with built-in wireless, two cameras, bluetooth and who knows what else!

Here was my chance to put my new toy to good use and to prove to the IRS I did in fact buy it for work purposes. I powered up the new Sony, connected to my wireless network and brought up my Firefox web browser. I decided to go directly to the Edmonton broadcast (I wanted to hear the Canadian commercials), typed in the CHED home page and clicked on listen live. I hooked up my bluetooth headphones to avoid the "nudges thru the night" and all of the sudden, I felt like I was a 10-year-old again, listening to Bud Lynch, Bruce Martin and Sid Abel, live from the old Olympia.

This time I was listening to the Edmonton broadcasting team of Rod Phillips and Morley Scott and I was in heaven. The more I listened, the more old memories flashed in my head. I recalled Bud Lynch belting out lines like, "The goalie made the save in the nick of time, and the Nick was Libbet", or Sid Abel telling Bruce, "That guy is from Cal-Gary Bruce, and he are a good hockey player."

Back to the game at hand. Even though the game ended less than eight hours ago as I write this, my memory of the game is fuzzy. I must have dozed off sometime in the 2nd period with the Oilers leading 3-0. I woke up at about 2:45 am, with the bluetooth still in my ear, listening to some a cops and robbers, old time radio show, or at least I think it was. In my "kid" years, I would have been upset since I had fallen asleep without knowing the outcome of the game, but last night, with a few clicks of a pointer tool on my screen, I was able to find out Edmonton did indeed win the game, 4-0.

Oh my, times have changed, but in a way they are the same. I just wonder if I can risk putting the Sony under my pillow, turn up the sound as loud as possible, and fall asleep to the muddled sound of, HE SCORES!!!

***

Now that we are well into the NHL season, it is time to take a look at the top hockey blogs on the web.

James Mirtle has taken on the task of listing and maintaining the top 50 or so hockey blogs, as ranked by Technorati. These blogs are must reads for hockey fans and show the different style each and every blogger has. You will find some are opinionated, some are great resources and all show the love these bloggers have for the game. I encourage you to visit them on a regular basis.

You will need a google account in order to view the whole list, which is located at the James Mirtle Blog. Look at the right sidebar, under Hockey Blogs, then "top blogs".

I am listing the Top 10 Blogs, but again, highly recommend you view the complete list.

1. Off Wing Opinion
2. James Mirtle
3. Kukla's Korner
4. The Battle of Alberta
5. Vancouver Canucks Op Ed
6. Covered in Oil
7. Canucks Hockey Blog
8. Hockey Country
9. Red and Black Hockey
10. Sharkspage

Posted by Paul @ 12:15 p.m.



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