Sweep-the-SwampCast! April 26, 2019

Welcome back to SwampSwami.com and our weekly “Sweep-the-SwampCast” podcast-only presentation!

On today’s show, we’ll cover the “Ups and Downs” of Thursday night’s first round of the annual NFL draft in Nashville. We’ll also discuss the gamesmanship between two NFC East rivals during Round 1, the paranoia surrounding the Oakland Raiders‘ NFL player draft, the NHL hockey playoff television ratings (Up!) and the NBA playoffs (down).

Finally, we salute one of my favorite basketball players of all time. John Havlicek of the Boston Celtics passed away on Thursday at the age of 79. Hondo will forever be a part of my generation’s basketball memories!

To listen, please click above or subscribe to all of SwampSwami’s audio posts via Apple Podcasts! The price is right…it’s FREE!

Sweep-the-SwampCast! April 19, 2019

In today’s edition of “Sweep-the-SwampCast“, our theme this week is about beating the gambling odds (or not). Some people have come up as big winners this week, while others, not so much.

This is an audio-only podcast version of the show. Click on the bar above to listen or, better yet, subscribe via Apple Podcasts to hear an audio version of each of our shows! Go ahead…try it. It’s FREE!

Have a HAPPY EASTER!

Happy Hockey Day 2019!

With 2019 just around the corner, it’s time to take a brief break from the football (at least for one article) and give some love to the National Hockey League! 

Yes, on January 1st at Noon (CT) on NBC, the NHL trots out two of its oldest franchises for the annual Winter Classic outdoor hockey game.  This year, the venue will be none other than South Bend, Indiana at historic Notre Dame Stadium!  

A sellout crowd of nearly 80,000 fans will brave the elements (the forecast is a chance of snow with a high temperature of 34 degrees) to watch the Chicago Blackhawks face-off with the Boston Bruins.  Though neither team is atop their division entering the new year, fans of these two storied franchises will get to experience the fun of watching hockey played where it all began – outdoors.

The New Year’s Day match-up will mark the fourth appearance in the Winter Classic for Chicago and Boston’s third time in the event.

“The Blackhawks and Bruins, two of our most historic franchises, will be meeting outdoors for the first time at the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. 

The annual NHL Winter Classic began in 2008 as a regular-season outdoor game and is hosted at a unique venue at the onset of the new year. This will be the eleventh consecutive Winter Classic game and marks the first time that the Blackhawks have faced off against the Bruins in the outdoor extravaganza. 

The Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins are part of the NHL’s “original six” teams.  The other four teams (Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadians, and Toronto Maple Leafs) were all founded in or around the 1920’s. 

Surprisingly to your SwampSwami, these six teams comprised the NHL for the next forty years until the league expanded in 1967.   The NHL then doubled in size in 1967 by adding teams in Los Angeles, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and San Francisco/Oakland. 

If you’re trying to figure out what happened to the San Francisco franchise (then known as the California Golden Seals), the team played in the Bay area until 1976.  The franchise then moved to Cleveland and played two more seasons (under the name “Cleveland Barons”) before folding and being merged into the Minnesota North Stars operation in 1978.

Today, the NHL operates in 31 markets.  Though the league has a television contract with NBC Sports for another three years, most televised professional hockey games are relegated to a cable sports affiliate of NBC. 

The NHL’s Winter Classic will go head-to-head for viewership Tuesday against ESPN’s college football Fiesta Bowl featuring 9-3 LSU against the undefeated University of Central Florida and ABC’s Citrus Bowl game between 9-3 Kentucky and 9-3 Penn State.

The NHL is hoping that viewers will be attracted to the unique annual outdoor spectacle and become new fans of the sport.

Hockey has longed for its place in the annual sports spectrum, but it continues to battle with football and, later, the NBA and baseball for viewership.

For this one glorious day, though, hockey fans around North America will enjoy the sport being played in the great outdoors in front of a stadium filled with cheering and fervent supporters along with a curious national television audience. 

The NHL hopes that planting this annual seed will result in millions of new fans for generations to come.

A fitting Knight-Cap to the NHL season

While the majority of sports fans will have to wait for the long slog called the NBA Finals to begin Thursday night, the National Hockey League (with an equally lengthy season) will feature two teams in search of their first-ever Stanley Cup trophy on Monday and Wednesday night this week.

Heck, one of the teams wasn’t even in the NHL last year at this time!

It is the expansion team from the West versus the “close-but-no-cigar” Eastern team, as the Vegas Golden Knights will take on the Washington Capitals in the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals.

The biggest question for a hockey novice like me is, “How can a brand new team, which selected one non-starting player from the other 30 teams, get into the NHL Finals during their first season?”

According to the NHL’s website, every professional hockey franchise must carry at least 20 players.  Since there are five skaters (plus a goalie) on the ice at any one time, each team has six starters with a gaggle of supporting characters.

Before the expansion draft by Las Vegas, each existing NHL franchise was allowed to “protect” up to eleven players on their roster.

So, the Vegas Golden Knights, whose General Manager previously worked for the Caps, filled their first-year roster by selecting one non-essential player from each of the other teams.  The Golden Knights is a squad built with cast-offs and old guys – players unwanted by their former employers.

Enter goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.  The former goalie for last year’s champion Pittsburgh Penguins was considered on the downside of his hockey career at age 33 and was paid a hefty $6 million per year.  The Penguins failed to “protect” Fleury (a three-time Stanley Cup champion) in favor of a younger goalie, and Las Vegas snapped him up.

Fleury’s defensive efforts have kept his new team close in games all year, while his experienced clubhouse leadership has helped to propel the Golden Knights through the playoffs during their inaugural season.

Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals polished off the defending champs from Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals of the East and then vanquished the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.  The Caps are the road warriors of the NHL playoffs with an amazing 8-2 record on the opposing team’s ice.

Washington has been in the league since 1974 and lost their only other appearance in the NHL Stanley Cup Finals in 1998.

Vegas, whose city name “Las” was dropped as it would add a fourth word to the team’s name, is the first expansion franchise to ever make it to the NHL’s championship round.

A first-time winner will emerge in what should be a fitting Knight-Cap to an interesting NHL postseason.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golf Channel drops the puck

Tonight on Golf Channel, it’s the National Hockey League Stanley Cup playoffs as the New Jersey Red Devils face-off against the Tampa Bay Lightning followed by the Anaheim Ducks at the San Jose Sharks!

What in the name of Arnold Palmer is going on?

NBC, which owns an assortment of cable channels including Golf Channel, apparently ran out of cable channels willing to carry its full ledger of NHL playoff games.  So, it’s Golf Channel to the rescue???

I’m not knocking the NHL or the quest for the Stanley Cup, but, seriously, let’s review the number of NBC-owned channels which decided NOT to carry an NHL playoff game tonight:

  1. NBC –  Carrying a drama called “Chicago P.D.” (whatever that is)
  2. USA Network – elected to carry the series “Suits” (whatever that is)
  3. CNBC – opted to carry another episode of “Shark Tank” (an interesting show, but it is seen all the time)

That left NBCSN (the network which carried my favorite Winter Olympic sport, curling) and Golf Channel to handle tonight’s hockey playoff games.

I will be the first to say that Golf Channel’s Wednesday night pre-tournament golf coverage of the Valero Texas Open from San Antonio would not draw large numbers of golf fans.

On the other hand, it’s sad that playoff hockey was booted down the dial to make way for other mediocre television shows.  If hockey’s television viewership was more robust nationwide, the games surely would have aired on one or more of the most popular NBC channels noted above.

NHL playoff hockey can be exciting to watch, but the game must attract more viewers (and advertisers) in order to take the next step up NBC’s pecking order.

Stay tuned.  Maybe next week Golf Channel will give us the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets against Happy Gilmore, Patrick Reed and the Augusta Green Jackets!

 

 

 

NHL Outdoor Winter Classic – Kickin’ ice for 10 years

Happy New Year to all!  While most of us will be dial-hopping to watch our favorite New Year’s Day college football bowl game on Monday, the National Hockey League will usher in 2018 with its annual outdoor hockey game.  This year, the NHL’s Winter Classic will be played in New York City and features the hometown New York Rangers against the team which hosted the first NHL outdoor hockey encounter, the Buffalo Sabres.

Ten years ago, the NHL and NBC put together the first professional outdoor hockey game to be played in the United States on January 1, 2008.  Where would be the best place in the United States to feel certain that the temperature would remain cold enough to keep the ice frozen for outdoor hockey?  Buffalo, of course!

A decade ago, a makeshift rink was set-up inside of the 80,000 seat stadium which normally plays host to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.  Would anyone pay money to attend an outdoor hockey game on New Year’s Day in normally frigid Buffalo?  Yes, they did!  Over 71,000 fans braved the cold and, yes, the snow to watch their hometown Buffalo Sabres play the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Alas, Penguins’ hockey legend Sidney Crosby scored a goal in a shootout to eventually win it for the visitors, 2-1.

It was a treat to watch on television.  The spectacle of outdoor hockey being played before legions of freezing but loyal fans and having portions of the game played in the snow added up to a surprise ratings bonanza for NBC.  As a result, this outdoor NHL tradition has been held every New Year’s Day ever since as the annual event has traveled to several other cities.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the NHL Winter Classic as the outdoor rink comes to New York City.  The game will be played at Citi Field, the home of baseball’s New York Mets.  Despite a frigid forecast high temperature of 18 degrees and wind chill values around zero, a shivering sellout crowd of over 40,000 hockey fans is expected to be in attendance.

The Big Apple’s version of this annual hockey spectacle will provide the frigid fans with live music from brave performers such as the Goo Goo Dolls and Max Weinberg.  Former Kiss guitarist, Ace Frehley, will warm-up the crowd by playing his hit song “New York Groove” to help celebrate the special occasion.

If you’re looking for something different to watch on New Year’s Day, give it a shot.  The frozen puck drops at 1PM Eastern/ 12 Noon Central time on NBC.