From Slapshots to Three Point Shots

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The Washington Post‘s always entertaining Capitals Insider, now ably helmed by Katie Carrera in place of the former longtime Caps beat reporter Tarik El-Bashir, features a nifty timelapse video of the ice-to-hardwood transition that the Verizon Center undergoes when switching from ice hockey mode to basketball mode (“Video: Watch Verizon Center’s ice-to-court changeover,” February 16, 2011):

Screengrab of Ice to Hardwood change at Verizon Center

(Screengrab only; click link for post and video.)

People are always amazed that the ice is still down there during basketball games and concerts. About the only time they physically pull the ice up in a multi-purpose arena is for events like horse shows and monster truck rallies (do such inanities still exist?). Gotta make money, I suppose.

I’m not sure if they keep the ice down during the hockey off-season or not, especially since the Caps have a dedicated practice facility elsewhere, but I’d imagine they re-lay the surface shortly before pre-season starts.

Ice quality is, without question, affected by the change to hardwood or other coverings, and the Verizon Center ice has come in for many grumblings over the years, but at least, according to the NHL players themselves, it’s not the worst ice in the league this season. According to the CBC/NHLPA poll results released over the All-Star weekend, that dubious honor goes to the Panthers’ home rink, the BankAtlantic Center, in Sunrise, Florida. Bad ice in Florida? Who’d a thunk? Though I wager the ice quality is more directly impacted by the amount of time the ice spends covered for other events than by latitude.

Some Suds with Your Slapshot?: Verizon Center's New Beer Menu

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Beer & Hockey by Brad Lauster on flickr.com via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike LicenseIn July, Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals, promised to bring better beer to the crowd at Verizon Center. Given the price of beer there, it’s the least he can do.

Doing what journalists do best, Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post‘s D.C. Sports Bog labored to compile a listing of where each of the beer choice is available this season at the Verizon Center, home of the Capitals.

Not surprisingly, mainstream domestic beers predominate the list.

Beer snobs quickly pointed out that having Bud, Bud light, Bud Light Lime, Bud Light Wheat, Bud Select 55, Michelob, Michelob Amber Bock, Michelob Light and Michelob Ultra is like bragging about the incredible variety of Wonder Bread available at your brand new bakery.

But there were more than a few beers on the list that we’d all like to drink, leading to the next problem.

That problem being, of course, where to find the superlative suds. Dan Steinberg’s comprehensive location guide will help once you’ve narrowed down your decision.

Looking over the beer list, I have to confess that I don’t see much new from my visits last season. Kona Fire, Czechvar, Starr Hill, and Fordham Copperhead are the only selections I don’t recall. Still, the location guide will be handy for my next visit this year. Section 424 beer stand, here I come!

(Image courtesy of Brad Lauster via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike license.)

Ice Hockey in Post-Apocalyptia

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Love it or hate it, Bethesda Softwork‘s decision to have every line of non-player character (NPC) dialogue in Fallout 3 accompanied by voice acting leads to a certain degree of immersion. From random townsperson to monomaniacal despot, everyone speaks. Even the two-headed mutated cows make noise.

Given the cast of hundreds, actors invariably voice multiple NPCs, often noticeably so. Too, the reliance on recorded dialogue means that once the dialogue is recorded, no late changes are feasible, and there are points in the game where I wish one NPC would acknowledge some huge event that took place in his or her life that was directly affected by my character’s actions. Even on big budget title like Fallout 3, there’s a limit to the voice acting funds, and I’m sure they had to decide to cut off dialogue trees at some point, where a non-voice acted title would have been able to add additional text branches to cover more permutations and outcomes.

Don't quit your day job. Because it's cool.

Still, imagine my surprise learning that the voice actor for an early antagonist (or protagonist, depending on your character’s moral inclinations) is . . . the announcer at Verizon Center for the Washington Capitals.

(Only the most minor of Fallout 3 spoilers follow.)

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In Defense of Flyers Fans

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Freddy the Flyer
I am a Philadelphia Flyers fan.

Am I going to throw my expensive arena beer on you when your team scores a goal? Am I going to heckle you because of the name on the back of your jersey? Am I going to spew profanities for three periods and two intermissions, including choice comments about the mental status of the Mighty Mites playing hockey before the Zamboni comes out? Am I somewhere between a camp follower of Genghis Khan and an oarsman on a Viking longboat on the civility scale?

To judge by the perceived reception that Flyers fans have on hockey blogs and forums, the answer has to be a resounding “Yes!”:

We all know we do… Who else hates flyers fans. They are loud, annoying, rude and just disgusting. […]

I’ve always thought they were annoying, but the game they had today was awful, lucky me, i was sitting between a bunch of them spilling beer all over the floors and being really rude to other people, they were all screaming at people 5 rows above, banging the glass etc…. maybe I always just get bad impressions of them. But so far every single time I see them they drive me nuts. […]

I hate the Flyers and their fans. Their fans are fat ugly idiots who know nothing about hockey.
(“Who else hates them?“)

Or, from this past Sunday, in the comments of Tarik El-Bashir’s solid Capitals Insider blog on washingtonpost.com, courtesy of “Jill”:

Oh, how I loathe the Flyers and their fans. I hope very few of their fans are in our house for Games 1 and 2, but I just know they will find a way to get their greasy little paws on our tickets. Let’s just hope our boys can shut down the Broad Street Thugs.

And “TimDz”:

Flyer fans are the worst. I was at the old Cap Centre years ago and was taking a leak with my Cap’s hat on (backwards). A Flyer fan knocked it off and made a nasty comment about my choice of teams…
So I did what any good Cap fan would do: I turned from my urinal and completed my business on his shoes. He took a swing at me, drunk as he was, but missed and hit the wall…I pushed him back and left him to defend himself against all my Cap’s breathren…the cops came in and took him out in cuffs…I blew him a kiss as he was lead out.
(“Caps to Host Flyers (Updated)“)

Lovely. But how accurate a depiction of the typical Flyers fan is this rather boorish portrait?
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The Ritual of Goodbye: How Traded Athletes Speak

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Trade and transfer deadlines in professional sports always see a flurry of activity, as teams look to bolster their ranks for playoff pushes, make a last effort to stave off relegation, or, sensing the inevitable, sell off assets and look to the fabled “next year” when things will certainly be better. Fans eagerly devour news of transactions, following rumors and refreshing the trade pages on the major sports sites all day long on the day of the deadline.

Go Huet! by Big Swede Guy, via a Creative Commons Attribution/Non-Commercial/No Derivatives licence

Tucked into many quickly posted news items about breaking trades is a comment from a just-traded athlete, and most such comments adhere to the same basic pattern: Reaction to the trade, regards for the team and fans being left, excitement at the prospect of playing for the new team, expectation for what the player will accomplish in the future.

The National Hockey League trade deadline this year was on Tuesday, February 26th, and the athletes moved around like game pieces pretty much followed the call-and-response pattern. To wit, goaltender Cristobal Huet, on his trade to from the Montreal Canadiens to the Washington Capitals, per a Canadian Press wire report (Feb. 27, 2008):

“I expected the unexpected, but I was shocked,” said Huet, who met with the media at the Bell Centre before heading to Washington. “I had three great years here. It was a lot of fun. I can’t say anything bad. I would love to have finished the job here but it was a little difficult. I didn’t play well enough the last three weeks so I guess I didn’t help my cause. Now I have a chance to join another team and try to help them jump into the playoffs.”

Now, in Huet’s case, he was essentially kicked out of Montreal in favor of a young goalie (20 year-old Carey Price) and traded away to Washington for a second round draft pick at next year’s draft. Washington ostensibly brought him in to take away the number one goaltending spot from a revered but slowing goalie (Olie Kolzig) who spent his entire career there and stuck with the Capitals during their several seasons’ long rebuilding effort. Not an ideal situation to wake up to on a Tuesday morning, but Huet remained sufficiently composed to provide the ritualized response. Montreal fans most likely appreciated the gesture, and Washington fans can look forward to a team player joining up.

It’s when athletes diverge from the pattern that you sense something is awry.

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