Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lazar Hayward, Big East Player of the Year?

Interesting article here that uses statistical analysis of player stats to determine who has been most important to their team's success. We're not talking such simple stats as points scored. This is more like calculating how many points a player scores per his team's 100 possessions.

Using these stats, this writer says that Marquette's Lazar Hayward could be the Big East Player of the Year.

Citing that only four players in the country take a higher percentage of their team's shots while on the floor, he leads all Big East players with steals in conference, and that Lazar is the senior leader on a team that lost a lot of leadership, it may be hard to argue with this analysis when the season is over.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Women's Hockey Gold Medal Game

All 9 women’s hockey players with Wisconsin Badger backgrounds that are at the Olympics will be vying for the gold medal tonight about 5:30 ish tonight and I’ll be live blogging again over at No Alibis, No Regrets. Come by and hang out, comment and enjoy what should be a really great game.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The future of women's hockey as an Olympic sport

In this article, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports makes the assertion that women’s hockey is so lopsided that the sport be given eight more years to fix the disparity or be dropped from the Olympics.

Of course, he doesn’t actually give any suggestions for how to fix the gap that exists between Canada and the United States and the rest of the world.

Instead of a productive use of his column inches, Passan paints the North American teams as bullies and slaughterers, as though it’s somehow their fault that other countries are lagging behind.

The worst of the article is the assertion: “This is women’s hockey: a goal-a-minute beatdown in all but a few matchups.”

You’ll notice the lack of the qualifier “Olympic” in Passan’s overstatement. This implication that all women’s hockey games result in double-digit wins is absurd and misleading.

Even if you make the assumption that he’s talking Olympics, its complete hyperbole. The problem is bad enough – exaggerating it isn’t going to help solve it in any fashion.

During yesterday’s USA-China game there was discussion of players like Angela Ruggiero visiting China in order to spread the game. While it’s admirable, it’s going to take much more than some celebrity endorsements to grow women’s hockey and I believe it’s the job of the IOC, as well as both Team USA and Team Canada and their respective Olympic offices, to help start youth programs as well as Olympic Development camps and teams. It behooves both of the two top teams to be involved and be advocates of the game before it becomes obsolete. But until men's hockey becomes more of a priority for China, it's hard to imagine women's will get any support or credit.

Another avenue to work would be to partner with the NCAA to have more international scouting, bringing more talent into the United States and Canada to be developed in the universities. Using these already established programs keeps costs down and adds another level of development for international players after high school. Scholarships and grants can be established to help defray costs. Though these take some money to set up, they’d still be cheaper than starting a program from scratch and could be subsidized by donations.

Remember, too, that countries like Sweden, Switzerland and Finland have a history of supporting women's athletics - these were some of the first countries to support world-class international women's soccer, as well. They don't seem to hold with the same stereotypes other teams are fighting against.

Most solutions will take time to implement and see production from. One "fix" that could be implemented immediately would be an aggregate, round-robin style tournament where each team plays each other twice, a la Champions League soccer. Giving teams another shot at each other should allow for adjustments. Both Switzerland and Sweden have pulled upsets of Canada and the US and this style tournament should give us more of those.

I don’t agree with Passan’s 2018 deadline. I understand using softball as a measuring stick, but it’s short sighted to say that in eight years these teams are supposed to turn things around. That means China’s 12 year olds need to learn to ice skate, puck handle and shoot on an international level before their 18th birthday to be ready for qualifying.

The skills needed for softball and hockey differ so much that you can’t set the same time frame for them or compare them. In the time it takes to teach someone how to play softball and start playing games, a possible hockey player would still be learning how to skate.

A member of the Slovakia women's team was quoted this week talking about the large scores. She pointed out that in the beginnings of hockey, the men's Canadian teams were getting beaten by double digits and she basically said that people need to be patient.

Monday night, a pair of Chinese figure skaters won the gold medal. Just 20 years ago, a Chinese pair was literally laughed off the ice. Russian pairs had won Olympic gold for 12 years running.

Here's the medal table from the last 3 Olympics.

Games ↓ Gold ↓ Silver ↓ Bronze ↓
1998 Nagano United States Canada Finland
2002 Salt Lake City Canada United States Sweden
2006 Turin Canada Sweden United States

I'd love to know what the difference is for Sweden this year, as they've not shown as they have in the past.

Perhaps the biggest mystery of women's hockey is the lack of time and money spent on Russian women's hockey. Some internet research brought up little but more questions. For a country not only so hockey-obsessed, but also so committed to their Olympic caliber athletes, it seems unfathomable that there isn't more support for their women's team. They do not have a residency program - the biggest thing holding them back from furthering their work as a team.

Clearly there's a huge gap that exists between Canada and the US and the rest of the field this year, but threatening these programs with cancellation certainly isn't going to implore them to spend more money, time and effort to improve programs that could be basically obsolete in less than a decade.

It's up to the IOC, USOC, COC and the respective teams to make an effort to push the importance of this game. You'll remember my gushing about taking little girls to see Team USA during their Qwest Tour. It breaks my heart to imagine that this year's babies might never had that chance. And I can't help but wonder what happens to the thousands of little girls out there who currently dream of being Olympians. Do they stop playing? Does the caliber of college hockey drop because there's nowhere to go after you graduate? The implications are far-reaching and painful to think about.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Live Blogging Women's Hockey

I'll be liveblogging the US Women's Hockey game against Russia tomorrow at 4:30 pm over on UW Hockey Blog Sixty Minutes. No Alibis. No Regrets.

I'll be using Cover It Live, which is the program we used when we liveblogged the All-Star Game for Ladies... so you should be familiar with the program.

I believe this link will take you to the live blog when it goes live at about 4:15 pm tomorrow, but I'll come back and update tomorrow to make sure.

Come check in with me if you're at work and can't watch the game or just to join in the discussion. Hopefully the game will be a little more exciting than yesterday's rout.

Brewers' Sausage Problems

Last Wednesday was truck day for the Milwaukee Brewers and as part of the hoopla/story, the Brewers had pictures of the Racing Sausages helping to load the trucks and eventually showing them being loaded in themselves.

Concurrent to that story was a promotion in which Brewers Charities were auctioning off a chance to have the Racing Sausages Sing to your Sweetheart on Valentine’s Day – four full days after the Sausages were shown being loaded up and shipped away.

Listen, I’m an adult - I know how these things work. But seriously, this is why characters don’t talk and why you don’t see more than one Mickey at Walt Disney World. There’s an illusion created and the Brewers kind of smashed it all on their own with this one.

It’s hard to believe that no one within the organization put two and two together here and realized what these over-lapping “promotions” would mean. Simply not showing the Sausages being loaded into the trucks would have kept the illusion alive. There would have still been photo ops of Sausages helping load the trucks.

Lesson learned here: Never double-book your Sausage

In which I create imaginary scenarios because I'm desperate for baseball

The boyfriend and I went out for happy hour and an Ads game with Liz and Aaron on Friday night. With Corey Hart having just completed his arbitration hearing, we were talking players who were also seeking more money.

Two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum was also in arby with the Giants and I mentioned that I had imagined the following scenario in my head.

Lincecum walks in with a Cy Young in each hand and plops them loudly on the table. He crosses pulls down his sunglasses, crosses his arms and proclaims “Jeff Suppan is making $12 million next season. (pause to look everyone in the eye) I rest my case.”

He grabs the Cy Youngs and strides back out.

Seriously, you know you can see this happening and Lincecum is ballsy enough to do it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Live Blogging Women's Olympic Hockey

*It's a final. USA wins their opening Olympic game!

*Julie Chu and Jinelle Zaugg with some pretty back and forth passing leads to Chu putting one in right at the back post with under a minute left in the game. 12-1 USA

*I had mentioned a goalie switch, but it doesn't seem to have happened when I said it did. It happened about 10 minutes left in the period. Not sure what I missed, but there was a whole discussion about Brianne McLaughlin and her college.

*China scored while I was watching Nordic. Switch the station for 4 minutes and miss all the action

*Ok, that was the best thing I've watched so far. Men's Nordic was a crazy sprint to the finish. The French guy who won the gold didn't lead the whole race. A Japanese made a sprint too early, forcing everyone to sprint early. USA Lodwick who led the whole time couldn't hold it. USA's Spillane took the lead and lost it last 100 yards

*Switched over to men's alpine for a minute because the Americans look to be making a coup and I missed a goal. It's 11-0 Team USA

*Badger Molly Engstrom takes a shot from the hash marks on the boards of the right faceoff circle and makes it 10-0. USA has 54 shots. 9:00 minutes left in the game.

*One of China's players just got in behind her keeper to make a kick save and keep the puck out of the net. Nice sacrifice for a player down 9-0.

*Team China has just 4 shots on goal, so this is not a very exciting match. Feels like everyone's just been waiting for this thing to end since about 5 minutes gone in the 2nd period.

*Now 9-0 USA on a shot by Jenny Potter that's put away by #Badger Meghan Duggan

*Goalie change for Team USA and it's still not Jessie Vetter. This better be because she's being rested.

* Ok Jocelyne Lamoureux just scored the most redonk goal. Between the legs pass to herself and then five-holed the goalie. Another top 10 play. USA 8 China 0

*Cheap, Cheap shot on Erika Lawler as she outskated a Chinese player and got taken down into the boards. Saying there's nothing wrong w/ hit? Lawler could barely limp off the ice. C'mon Erika, be ok.

*GiGi Marvin just fed Lisa Chesson a gorgeous pass on the far post which Chesson finessed in to the upper corner to make it 7-0 with 16 minutes left in the 2nd period

* NICE! First cheesehead sighting in the crowd at the women's hockey game!

*China goalie really is very impressive, though the score doesn't show it. She's made a couple of great saves. Unfortunate she has no support

*Badger Molly Engstrom takes an outside shot and Jenny Potter screened the goalie and tipped it in for a PP goal. Potter with the hat trick as USA now leads 6-0

*2nd period underway with Team USA on PP

*end of 1st period

*And just :21 seconds later Jenny Potter puts in the rebound off a Hilary Knight shot. 5-0 USA

*Finally, a #Badger gets on the board! Meghan Duggan has 3 Chinese defenders surrounding her and manages to beat the keep. 4-0 Team USA!

*UNREAL stop by the Chinese goalie after a poor clear from behind the net goes straight to Julie Chu's stick.

*Turns out #Badger Jinelle Zaug-Siergiej has a blog and has been updating it from the Olympics. She has cool pics from opening ceremonies, etc.. Seems like it will provide some cool insight to the Olympic experience.

*2-0 Team USA as Julie Chu stole a clearance pass and got it to Kelli Stack in front of the net. Just under 10 to go in the first period.

* Ok, the announcer guy just called Erika Lawler a "mighty mite."

*Angela Ruggiero just schooled the Chinese defenders through the zone and slides the puck under the goalies leg to make it 1-0 Team USA

*The women's Olympic hockey team starts their attempt to win the gold this afternoon.

Player to watch in the women's hockey game? Badger sophomore Hilary Knight. Knight is the youngest player on the team with possibly the best wrist shot EVER in women's hockey. Let that sink in.

Also, Jessie Vetter isn't in goal, but no one has said why. She's been called the best keeper ever. She has the NCAA record for shut-outs. She won the Patty Kaz. Why the heck isn't she playing?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Culver's Camp Randall Badger Hockey Classic

This past Saturday we spent the day in Madison for the Culver’s Camp Randall Badger Hockey Classic. Both the women’s and men’s teams played outdoor games at Camp Randall and we were lucky enough to be in attendance for both.
With weather in the high 20s the whole time, it was cold but not unbearable and the Badgers did a great job of having warming areas available for fans.

We got to Camp Randall about 1 pm because we wanted to see the exhibits and still be in our seats for the women’s games. Inside the football practice facility there were traveling exhibits from both the International and USA Hockey Halls of Fame.

The IHHF exhibits included quite a bit of historical memorabilia, which was my favorite part. They also featured some pieces of Wisconsin history.

There were four NHL trophies on display. The Stanley Cup had been in the house for fans that wanted to see if Friday night, but sadly was not on display on Saturday.

The exhibit from the USHHF was weighted heavily to the Miracle on Ice and Badger Mark Johnson, but also featured a couple of cool pieces highlighting both Wisconsin’s and Michigan’s history of playing each other and playing hockey outdoors.

The biggest draw was video of the Miracle on Ice game. We walked in at about 18 minutes left in the final period and stood with a group of about 30-40 people and watched the match unfold. Unfortunately, the DVD has clearly seen a lot of wear, as it started skipping and stopping with about four minutes left in the game, meaning we didn’t get to see the post-game celebration and reaction, which would have been the coolest part to me.

While this litho is cool and signed, by far the coolest part is the easel made of hockey sticks. I NEED to have one of these.

This uniform is from 1924.

The top jersey is the captain's jersey from the Wolverine's third straight NCAA championship in 1953. The bottom is a rare jersey from 1948.

There was also a table there displaying the Hobey Baker Award and it was manned by two reps. As I walked up to the table another fan was commenting that the Hobey should go to Blake Geoffrion. One of the men behind the table said that with a name like Geoffrion he should be in the running. He then started rambling a bit about Boom Boom. When he realized he had gone off in his own little world, he looked back at the fan and asked if this Blake kid was related.
Yes sir, your organization has Blake in the running for your award – maybe you should know who he is.
( Blake is Boom Boom Geoffrion’s grandson. Boom Boom is credited with inventing the slap shot.)

We headed to our seats and were there for intros and the National Anthem. At first puck drop, we estimated a couple of hundred people were in attendance, which is pretty standard for women’s hockey games.
We had received tickets to the Badger Warm Up for Christmas, so we spent the second period inside the Field House. Tickets to the event were $25 and included all you could eat brats, soda, chips, cookies, cheese and beer as well as appearances by the UW Spirit Squad, Band and Bucky. We only stayed for the length of the period, so we didn’t get to see the live auction. Considering it was the only place to warm up with alcohol, as well as the cost of lunch, we figure the tickets were worth it. Plus, the hockey game and the men’s basketball game being played in Michigan were both being broadcast on screens in the Field House, so we didn’t feel we missed out on too much.
The women’s team dominated Bemidji State 6-1, setting the stage for the men’s game.

My favorite part of the outdoor rink was this homage to Badger Bob Johnson, who's known for the phrase.

Of course, Phil was there. By far the coolest part of the experience of being in Camp Randall was hearing the call of "(#) We Want More" echo back to us from the fans on the other side of the stadium. It literally gave me chills the first time around.

Digging the striped hat Rueggsagger wore the full game.

This was pretty cool - the women's team lined up and swayed and sang along with the fans to "Varsity."

There was about an hour between the two games, which wasn’t too difficult. By the time the team’s hit the ice for warm-ups and intros were down, there was very little downtime. One of the more poor decisions was to play piped in music during this time, instead of letting the band play.
The absolute worst part of the whole day was that the band was placed in about section N and therefore was completely unable to be heard where we were sitting on the east side of the stadium. We were in section U, just to the south of center ice and we could barely hear anything that was played the entire game. We lost out on the energy that is always so great during a hockey game in the Kohl Center. There was no crowd unity. It was a bit of a downer, to be honest.

One of the cooler details was having teams of mighty mites lining up to form a "tunnel" for the Badger men's team to travel through to get on and off the ice.

Puck Drop

Sadly, that puck is not in the net, but outside it.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Teaser picture

Here's just a few of the pictures I took at yesterday's Camp Randall Badger Hockey Classic. The rest will be uploaded in the coming day.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Badgers' Trevon Hughes featured in USA Today

Thanks to the Badger Men's basketball Twitter feed for this link.

Read up on how attending St. John's Military Academy in Delavan changed life for Trevon Hughes.

Awesome time-lapse video

Click here to see a 52-second time-lapse video of the rink being constructed inside Camp Randall Stadium. Very, very cool.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Pitt to Big Ten rumored

No news sources reporting it yet, so it’s just conjecture, but this site is saying the student-athletes were told about it this weekend and official announcement will come on Thursday.

The same site says it sets up a natural rivalry with Penn State and the addition will set up a conference championship game.

There’s no speculation about who will replace Pitt in the Big East.