Brutal Game

Loyalty is dead? Wake up – it’s been dead for a while.

5-3

Its all about the money.

The buzz after former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas signed for Chelsea FC, is that loyalty is dead.  Plot twist: Loyalty in professional sports is dead, and it’s been dead for a while – wake up and smell the rotting corpse everyone.

Luis Figo proved that, when he ditched Barcelona for swanky new digs at Real Madrid, fans reacted furiously, even throwing a pig head at him.

And it’s not just the beautiful game, loyalty is dead across the sporting globe.

In the NBA? There are 18 active players who have played their whole careers with one franchise – seven who were drafted by other teams.

'The Decision' Didn't go over well in Cleveland

‘The Decision’ Didn’t go over well in Cleveland

Let’s not forget about the most famous ‘Decision’ and Lebron ‘taking his talents to South Beach.’ That got a few people upset, eh?

How about the NHL where free-agency has ruined any sense of loyalty – where captains like Jerome Iginla or Daniel Alfreddson ditch their respective clubs to chase personal glory.

Heck Ilya Kovalchuk shocked the professional hockey world, ditching a $77 million dollar contract in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils for an even bigger contract in the KHL .

In baseball, just 8 active players have played more than 10 years with a single team – topped by New York Yankee Derek Jeter.

Gone are the days of Joe DiMaggio, Dan Marino, Steve Yzerman, Ryan Giggs and the Paolo Maldini’s – Legends who stuck with their teams through thick and thin. Now players chase personal glory, crave their big pay day.

And can you blame pro athletes? I can’t.

It’s a business and everyone is trying to get their payday or grab another trophy, personal glory.

Can you honestly tell me, if a rival company came to you and offered you more money, more guaranteed years that you wouldn’t consider it? That you wouldn’t jump at the chance to make more money?

Some might say no, but most would be out the door without a guilty second.

And that is the hypocrisy of where we place athletes and the false values we impose on them – it’s a business, whether we like it or not, and

Assou-Ekotto: Plays for the money, not the game.

Assou-Ekotto: Plays for the money, not the game.

business is about making money.

It’s refreshing to see comments from an athlete like Tottenham Hotspur player Assou-Ekotto, who infamously stated, “I play for the money. Football’s not my passion.”

“All people, everyone, when they go to a job, it’s for the money. So I don’t understand why, when I said I play for the money, people were shocked. Oh, he’s a mercenary. Every player is like that.”

He was lambasted by media, ripped up by fans – but why? Because we hold this idealistic mentality that players should be blindly loyal, play for the ‘love of the game’ and wear their hearts on their sleeves?

Blind loyalty a hopelessly romantic notion, sounds lovely, but it’s just not true anymore in modern sports.

So while Arsenal fans burn Fabregas shirts in the streets and Cleveland fans still reel about ‘The Decision’ – wake up and realize, Loyalty is dead and it’s not coming back.

And as Puff Daddy so eloquently said – it’s all about the Benjamins.

THE BATTLE FOR THE CUP: SECOND ROUND PREDICTIONS

SCF2014What an end to the first round with three game sevens and the end of a beautiful, almost predictable, San Jose collapse – have the Sharks become the ultimate chokers in the playoffs, does this latest epic collapse put the crown on their heads? (Oops, too soon?).

With that said, how did we do in the first round?

We aced the Eastern Conference with the Bruins, Canadiens, Penguins and Rangers all winning, while we split the results in the Western Conference.

The Ducks and Blackhawks won, while the Wild and Kings upset our picks in Game 7 – we were within a MacKinnon goal and a 3-game collapse from a perfect first round.

And without further adieu, we’re onto the second round with the Bruins and Habs kicking things off on Thursday night.

Here are our picks for the second round:

 

 

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens

Nasty, ugly, brutal, crushing, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking – this second round matchup between North American sports’ most bitter rivals will be all that and so much more.

The playoff history is lopsided in the Habs favor, with them hold a 24-9 series record over their American rivals – but the tide has turned in recent memory, with the Bruins winning in the last two match-ups.

canadiensWe know the goalies are top notch, we know the usual suspects and we know that penalties galore are to be expected – for me, the key to winning could be in who doesn’t retaliate and who manages to keep their tempers under control.

Prediction: Montreal in 6

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Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers

Surviving scares, these two teams managed to make it into the second round but it could have easily been the Blue Jackets against the Flyers – with both teams digging deep to find a way to win.

The biggest difference between these two teams starts in net, with Henrik Lundqvist holding a clear advantage over the calamitous Marc-André Fleury – who single handily did as much as he could to give the Blue Jackets a series win.

All that aside, the Penguins have history on their side and have beaten the Rangers in ever series they’ve met. This time around, Rick Nash and rangerscompany will be looking to take advantage of sloppy defence and weak goaltending to break that goose egg.

For me, the glaring issues in net and the sloppiness will be too much with the Rangers taking advantage and running away with the series.

Prediction: Rangers in 6.

 

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks v Minnesota Wild

Balanced scoring and responsible play helped the Wild get past the Avalanche and to be fair, the same could help them sneak by the Blackhawks in the second round.

It may not be enough though, with the Chicago offence on fire after scoring 14 goals in the final four games of their series against the Blues, add in the fact that Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper is questionable and  Ilya Bryzgalov is not the most reliable of goalies, this series could be over before it begins.

hawksI give the Wild credit for knocking off Patrick Roy’s young, inexperience team, but for me the Chicago playoff experience and form make this an easy prediction.

Prediction: Chicago in 6

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Anaheim Ducks v LA Kings

Let’s all take a collective moment and let it out: WHAT THE HELL SAN JOSE!?

Okay, now that we’ve covered that – how about those Kings? Coming back from being down 0 – 3 in a series, the fourth team ever to do that by the way, and stealing the series from the Sharks was impressive – but can they take that momentum and turn it into a Western Final berth?

Anze Kopitar was stellar in the first round and the Kings will ask for more of the same, he’ll have to contend with the likes of Ryan Getzlaf in this round and that should be a fun battle to watch.

For me the big question for this matchup is pretty clear: Goaltending.

Jonathan Quick vs maybe a healthy Frederik Anderson, but perhaps a Jonas Hiller (Without confidence of course….) – Old Brucey will need to decide, but either way the Ducks need a 180 turn around on the goaltending scale.
Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 7.32.13 PMThis is easily the toughest series for me to predict, but I’m going to give the edge to the Kings – maybe it’s their amazing twitter account that wins me over?

Prediction: Kings in 7

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Henry writes about his two passions the Beautiful Game and the Brutal Game – whether you’re a die hard Soccer fan or passionate hockey fan, he’s got you covered. 

You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , where he live tweets about sports far too much.

We’re back!

Slightly drunk, slightly awkward but what a party.

Slightly drunk, slightly awkward but what a party.

A year, it’s been a whole year since I last posted here on The Ignorant Sports Fan.

Last year I was living in Halifax, breaking the Dalhousie Tigers Women’s Hockey hazing scandal and enjoying some love from Deadspin and others – fast forward a year and i’m living in Ontario, writing for Radio and watching it snow in April. Yeah, April.

Oh and somewhere in between I was in the Top 24 for Drafted, celebrated the Halifax Mooseheads win the Memorial Cup, got addicted to board games and went to Jamaica.

Well, i’m back and finally on the horse to get some articles pumping out plus i’m finally launching a podcast, which will be up on itunes shortly.

Here’s to bigger and better things moving forward!

– H

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Henry is a former  writer for Sportstream.ca  and Host of the The Sports Show on 88.1 in Halifax. Now residing in Ontario, You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , where he live tweets about sports far too much.

The Battle for the Cup: First Round Predictions

SCF2014Well, it’s that time of the year again – 16 teams get ready to battle for the ultimate prize in hockey, the Stanley Cup.

Things have returned to normal with a Maple Leafs epic collapse, the Flyers making a crazy signing (Andrew MacDonald six years, $30m? What the hell?) and Canada clinging to slim hopes of the Cup returning North of the border.

So without further adieu, here’s my look at the first round of the playoffs:

 

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins v Detroit Red Wings

Detroit switched over to the East, still makes the playoffs for a 23rd time – should provide a tough matchup for the Bruins? Not a chance. The Red Wings were plagued by injuries, sure they made the playoffs, but not sure Babcock can wizard up a series win against a championship calibre Bruins team.

bruinsIf there is an upset in the first round, it could be in this series – Detroit know how to win against the odds and they managed to do it all season missing key players (Read: Zetterburg, Datsyuk).

Prediction: Bruins win in 6

– –

Tampa Bay Lightning v Montreal Canadiens

It all starts at the back for the lightning and without Ben Bishop in the lineup, it’s going to be all up-hill against the Canadiens. Jon Cooper says the Bolts could have him back sometime in the series, but how much truth is in that? Price got the monkey off his back in Sochii, showing he can handle the pressure, he’s the difference maker in this series.

canadiensHeck, maybe it’s my blatant patriotism (Yes, Quebec is still part of Canada Folks), but i’m pulling for the Habs to knock back the bolts and head into the second round, after that all bets are off.

Prediction: Habs win in 7

– –

Pittsburgh Penguins v Columbus Blue Jackets

One Word: Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

Actually, if we’re honest, it’s a five game series because Fleury is due to throw up at least one duck in this series. Fedor Tyutin and James Wisniewski will have their hands full with the talent of the top six of Pittsburgh, while Sergei Bobrovsky would need to steal four games for the Blue Jackets to win this series.

penguinsBut it’s not all doom and gloom for Columbus, a team that is heavy on young talent and will look to take the most out of this post season experience.

Prediction: Penguins in 5

– –

New York v Philadelphia

So many story lines in this series from Alain Vigneault, to Brad Richards, to Vincent Lecavalier – where to start? This series could be a bloodbath and home ice advantage could be the edge as the Rangers have owned the Flyers at Madison Square Gardens. For Brad Richards it can’t possibly be worse than last year’s post season, right? Who ended the playoffs firmly scratched from the lineup. 

rangersSteve Mason is the biggest question mark for me, can he stand tall between the Flyers pipes, or will he get a master class from his opposing number in Henrik Lundqvist?

Prediction: Rangers in 7

 

Western Conference

Anaheim Ducks v Dallas Stars

Speed will be the straw that breaks the camels back in this series, with the camel being the Stars. The duo of Getzlaf and Perry tore up the Stars, while this is the final chance for Selanne to win the Cup, providing a dynamic catalyst for the Ducks this post-season.

I’ve always liked Bruce Boudreau’s shit-kicker attitude and this could be a fun team to watch in a very strong Western Conference (What else is new?). I just don’t see a way for the DucksStars to hang with the big boys in this one, they’ll be lucky to steal a game.

Prediction: Ducks in 5

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San Jose Sharks v LA Kings

Last year the Sharks and Kings battled it out in one of the most exciting playoff series’ (We’re not talking about that team from Toronto today), with Jonathan Quick being stellar and home ice being the winner after it was all said and done.

A physical massacre, everything left on the ice and a hobbled team moving forward for whoever wins, a shame really, with these two championship teams, that someone has to go sharkshome so early. The Sharks have been so close, so many years to really making a splash – for me – this is their year. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logon Couture and Joe Pavelski provide a high-powered offence, that hopefully Antti Niemi can hide behind.


Prediction:
Sharks win in 7.

– –

Colorado Avalanche v Minnesota Wild

There’s no secret that i’m a big fan of Nathan MacKinnon – but the Avs have struggled for consistency up front – and the rookie will need to step up in the playoffs alongside Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Stastny and Ryan O’Reilly, especially without offence catalyst Matt Duchene.

Bryzgalov has filled in nicely for Harding and will be expected to stand on his head to snuff out the Avs, but the Wild have offence if they can start firing – let’s not forget they have avalancheZach Parise, Matt Moulson, Mikko Koivu and veteran Jason Pominville tucked away in Minnesota. All that without mentioning Ryan Suter and Erik Johnson on the backend.

Prediction: Avs sneak this one in 6

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St. Louis Blues v Chicago Blackhawks

With Ryan Miller in net, more offensive power than last season and the highest wins in Franchise history, the Blues are hoping they can overcome injuries to get past the Blackhawks. TJ Oshie, Vladamir Sobotka, Brenden Morrow, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Tarasenko and David Backes have all been hurt as of late and that doesn’t bode well for the Blues.

The Blackhawks will need their top two to set up, with Kane/Toews not having their usual standout seasons, but the defending Champions have kept their core together and are hawkslooking to repeat. Their biggest question mark remains between the pipes, will Corey Crawford return to his playoff form from last year?

Prediction: Blackhawks in 5.

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Henry is a former  writer for Sportstream.ca  and Host of the The Sports Show on 88.1 in Halifax. Now residing in Ontario, You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , where he live tweets about sports far too much.