Thursday, August 21, 2008

Jacques Rogge: The Worst Person in the World

BOULDER, Colorado -- This may or may not be my final post about the Beijing Olympics. I make no promises. Or rather, unlike the Beijing organizers and their stooges at the International Olympic Committee, I will not make promises and then blatantly break them with no foreseeable consequences.

The president of the IOC, Belgian apologist and sailing enthusiast Jacques Rogge, has criticized Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt for his display of exuberance after (and during) his stunning 100-meter victory.

"That's not the way we perceive being a champion," Rogge told Associated Press, the BBC reported, adding that Bolt should "not make gestures like the one he made in the 100 meters."

"He might have interpreted that in another way, but the way it was perceived was 'catch me if you can.' You don't do that. But he'll learn. He's still a young man."

I hope to God that Mr. Bolt does not learn anything from Rogge and the bastards of his ilk. His 100- and 200-meter victories were the truly transcendent events of these Olympics, eclipsing even the astounding accomplishments of Michael Phelps, in my opinion.

Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post skewers this nitwit for his paternalistic comments and his long record of hypocrisy and deceit. Jim Caple over at summed up my own excitement about this phenom quite well.

I hope the transgressions of the Chinese authorities put the final nail in the coffin of the moribund Olympic "movement," but I know that is not going to happen. But should this be the final chapter, then there is no better image to close the Games than Usain Bolt's exuberant swagger into the history books.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NBC Continues to Keep Usain Bolt's Brilliance from the World, At Least Until Primetime

BOULDER, Colorado -- NBC's Olympics webpage does not have any video footage of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt's world record-breaking 200 meter dash, even though the historic race took place several hours ago.

Bolt again demolished the field, clocking in at 19.30 seconds. This time, we can thank the Dutch for providing this video footage so you won't have to wait through hours of NBC's drivel this evening to see it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Konstantin Savchenko Named Baikal-Energia's New Captain

BOULDER, Colorado -- After the tragic departure of their captain Nikolai Kadakin this off-season to the hated Dynamo Moscow, Baikal-Energia Irkutsk had to find themselves a new emotional and offensive leader. They found one in midfielder Konstantin Savchenko.

The 31-year-old Savchenko has played seven of the last eight seasons in Irkutsk, spending the 2005-06 season with now-defunct SKA-Zabaikalets Chita. He has 291 career games to his name, 191 those with either Baikal-Energia or the Sibskana, and 131 goals, 84 of them in an Irkutsk uniform.

It has long been a tradition in the Irkutsk club that the players vote for their captain by secret ballot. Savchenko received 17 votes, while goaltender Alexei Negrun - who has played for Irkutsk since 1990, back when the team was called Lokomotiv, making him the longest-tenured member - finished second with 14. The voting was done August 7 soon after the team completed their training camp in the nearby city of Baikalsk.

Kemerovo Governor's Cup to Start Next Week

BOULDER, Colorado -- Five clubs are set to face off in Kemerovo's brand new enclosed Khimik Stadium for the Kemerovo Governor's Cup, also known as the Kuzbass Cup, starting August 31.

Russian clubs Sibselmash Novosibirsk, Uralsky Trubnik Pervouralsk and hosts Kuzbass Kemerovo will be joined by Swedish elite league teams Vasteras SK and Vetlanda BK for the one-week tournament.

The Kuzbass Cup will be the first major matches played at Khimik, one of several enclosed stadiums to open this season in the Russian Bandy League.

The tournament schedule (in Russian) can be found here.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Olympic Boycott Lifted, Immediately Reimposed

BOULDER, Colorado -- I was willing to lift the ban on the Beijing Olympics that I have imposed in my own home for one person and one person only. No, not Michael Phelps - the inimitable Usain Bolt.

Last night in a bar I caught a glimpse of the Jamaican's quarterfinal heat, and he was so magnificent I decided I had to see him run the men's 100 meter final. By midmorning I had already learned the result - Bolt shattered his own world record with an electrifying 9.69-second run - so I decided I would tune in to NBC's primetime coverage to catch the race.

After three hours of the women's marathon and a dozen or so swimming races, I still had not seen the final, which had taken place more than 12 hours earlier in China. I was getting sick of waiting. But when I went to, there was not a single highlight to be found of Bolt's historic run. That currently remains the case close to 15 hours after the race - all NBC has bothered to put online is a recap and some still photos.

Rafat Ali of the Washington Post also made note of this glaring omission by NBC here.

NBC has long been touting how they will have the most hours of coverage of any Olympics ever, due in large part to their internet content. I do appreciate the ability to watch fencing online (though only a fencer could actually appreciate it because fencing is a rather complicated sport with arcane rules and scoring, and like many other fringe sports, it is shown online without any commentary), but the 1oo meter dash is one of the marquee events of any summer games, and NBC should probably offer some footage.

Apparently they would rather show you beach volleyball cheerleading, Bela Karolyi shouting, and a Hungarian weightlifter breaking his elbow in a rather grotesque fashion - these are currently some of the top highlights on the NBC site.

So I gave the Olympics a look-in, and it was a total waste of my time. Hopefully you sports fans who are not trapped in NBC's Olympic vortex have been given slightly better coverage.

And here's a little screw you to the folks over at 30 Rockefeller Plaza - footage of the race from French TV:

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Team May Be Gone, But the Hat Persists

BOULDER, Colorado -- As soon as the temperature starts to approach freezing, I dig into my closet and dig out something that has become the most ubiquitous part of my winter wardrobe for the past six years - my Sibskana hat.

It's starting to look a little worse for wear, and I have thought about perhaps trading it in for a newer blue model. The team has not been called "Sibskana" for several years now, but after the name was changed to "Baikal-Energia," angry fans began shouting one of my favorite cheers to voice their displeasure:

"Байкал - это отдых, Сибскана - хоккей!
Верните нам нашу команду скорее!"

["Baikal is vacation, Sibskana is hockey!
Give us our team back quick!"]

I don't think fans shout this quite so much anymore, but scarfs and hats emblazoned with the old green and white logo are still a common sight at games in Irkutsk. And I'm proud to hang onto mine.

Sibskana really was a wonderful name, as it spoke to the roots of the sport. It was a thoughtful name that showed respect for the game and avoided associations both with old Soviet-style club titles and with commercial sponsorships. "Sib" stood for Siberia, a region that boasts some of the best bandy talent in the world, and "Skana" was short for Scandinavia, the other hotbed of the game. These are also two places with special importance for me personally; one was my adopted home, while the other is the home of my ancestors. Two regions with long traditions and very different styles of play, commemorated in the name of the club.

But now the hat has gained new meaning for me.

As I noted in a recent post, the winter months are still a long way off, but I decided recently to dig out the hat a bit earlier this year when someone very special to me mentioned it. The hat often becomes a conversation piece, especially if I happen to meet someone with a knowledge of Russian. Even to a native speaker, the word is a bit difficult to decipher, as it has absolutely no meaning to anyone unfamiliar with bandy. So I inevitably have to explain what the word is, where the hat came from, and what the hell this odd sport is that I play on a giant sheet of ice. This usually devolves into me singing various Russian songs and shouting the names of my favorite players (most of whom have now departed).

I had such an encounter a few months ago, and thankfully, that conversation has turned into something very special. That person just said to me, "I am so grateful to your Russian hat for introducing us. Thank him for me, okay?"

So, here's my thanks to a hat that has accompanied me to a lot of places, and will continue to do so for a long time to come. I just hope that I can take it back to Irkutsk sometime soon to cheer on the team that will always be "Sibskana" to me.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Condolences to the Community of Mayerthorpe, Alta.

BOULDER, Colorado -- The small community of Mayerthorpe, Alberta suffered a tragic loss Tuesday as the town's hockey rink burned to the ground.

A small town of just under 1,500 people located 75 miles northwest of Edmonton, the Mayerthorpe arena was home to an annual memorial hockey game to commemorate the four Royal Canadian Mounted Policemen who were killed there on March 3, 2005.

The four mounties were killed by James Roszco during a property seizure raid. Mr. Roszco ambushed the officers during a raid on his farm with an assault rifle, killing police constables Peter Schiemann, Anthony Gordon, Lionide Johnston, and Brock Myrol. After radio contact with the four officers was lost, the Canadian Forces Edmonton Garrison responded to the scene with armored vehicles. Roszco ended the standoff by turning his gun on himself.

The incident was the largest single-day loss of life by the RCMP in over 100 years. The officers' deaths were commemorated on national television soon after the tragedy, and Queen Elizabeth II paid her respects just two weeks later during a visit to Regina, Saskatchewan. Just one month ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially opened a memorial park in Mayerthorpe in honor of the fallen officers.

The CBC article about the fire can be found here, while a profile of each of the officers killed is here, as well as a documentary about the tragic incident.

Our hearts go out to this community, and we here at Bandy Central are sure the good people of Mayerthorpe will find a way to remember these fallen mounties, even without their arena.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

KHL Upholds Radulov's Contract with Ufa, Makes Dumb Argument

BOULDER, Colorado -- From Ken Campbell at The Hockey News:

Despite the fact the NHL and the Kontinental League reached an agreement last week not to poach each other’s players under contract, the KHL has ruled it will uphold the three-year, $13 million contract Alexander Radulov of the Nashville Predators signed with Ufa Salavat. [more ...]

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside

BOULDER, Colorado -- Every year around this time, I start to get an itch. As much as I love the summertime, every July I start pining for winter. I miss the cold and the snow. All I want is for hockey season and ski season to start again. And I get especially excited for Christmas. Luckily, we have the interminable NHL playoffs, followed by the entry draft and free agency, and now we have the start of bandy training to tide us over during these hot, hazy months. And soon it will be cold again.

To honor the long summer wait, here is a tribute to one of my favorite songs, Frank Loesser's hit, Baby, It's Cold Outside. So pour yourself a drink, and start dreaming of winter.

Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams performing the song in the 1948 film Neptune's Daughter, its first wide release:

Zooey Deschanel and Will Ferrell in Elf (2003):

And the story of how this song stirred the imagination of Sayyid Qutb, the founder of modern political Islam, during a visit to Greeley, Colorado in 1949, from the BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear:

(I recommend that you watch this entire documentary).

So, enjoy the warm weather while you can, but take solace in knowing that cold weather is just around the corner.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Radulov Signing with KHL Club Puts New Transfer Deal to Test

BOULDER, Colorado -- The NHL, the NHL Players Association, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the seven top hockey leagues in Europe reached a tentative peace over player contracts at a meeting July 10 in Zurich, agreeing in principle to a new transfer regime for the sport.

Though no formal transfer agreement was signed, all the leagues, including those from Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Switzerland, and the newly-formed, Russian-based Continental Hockey League (KHL), agreed not to sign players currently under contract in other leagues.

Earlier this year, the European leagues all backed out of the IIHF-brokered transfer deal with the NHL, demanding an increase on the US$200,000 fee they receive when NHL clubs sign their out-of-contract players. Russia never signed that deal, which was reached three years ago, and this has created a great many legal battles over players moving from one league to another, most famously with Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin in 2006. Some teams were reportedly trying to lure the young star back to Russia, which is part of the reason why this meeting was held.

Nashville Predators forward Alexander Radulov has made the whole situation all the more confusing by signing a deal with KHL club Salavat Yulayev Ufa. Though Radulov still has one year remaining on his entry-level contract with the Predators, he signed a three-year deal with the Russian club worth a reported US$13 million.

It remains unclear whether the KHL will honor its new commitments to the NHL and quash the Radulov deal, but the 22-year-old remains determined to play in Russia next year for the reigning league champs. He is scheduled to earn $984,000 before performance bonuses next year in Nashville, according to The Hockey News. Were he to bolt to the KHL, he would be one of the top five highest-paid players in the league.