March 15, 2013 § Leave a Comment
It’s the day all of the women’s hockey community have long awaited: NCAA playoff time. However my happiness is not unalloyed. Readers will know I don’t use screens on Saturdays, except when they coincide with the NCAA tournament and/or the Frozen Four. Having to do so makes me both guilty and cranky. The past few years the opening round games have been played back-to-back-to-back-to back, eight-ish hours of hockey in a row, which generally gives me a migraine but at least allows fans to watch the damn things. This year, they have chosen to schedule two of the games at the same time, and they also overlap with one of the others, which overlaps with the fourth. Gosh, can’t imagine anyone will actually be watching, let’s just stack ‘em. So now there is stress about where to tune in. Nevertheless, these are three interesting match-ups and one dud. I am adding predictive scores for the first time, although wincing as I do so, because those can go so wrong, so fast. Don’t use me for wagers is all I’m saying.
*Harvard at BC. If the ECAC-tournament-version Harvard plays the Hockey East-tournament-version BC, advantage Harvard. The key here is for Harvard to score first. The Crimson had some trouble finding the net against Cornell, plus some bad luck (a hit post), and early goals were the key to their victory over Clarkson. That said, it would be wrong to sleep on Alex Carpenter’s skills, plus the other potential offensive weapons for the Eagles, who averaged 4.4 goals a game this year. Perhaps playoff urgency will help them find their form. Harvard 3 – BC 1
*Clarkson at BU. This is a Clarkson squad that has beaten Mercyhurst, North Dakota (!), Cornell, and Harvard twice times before finally succumbing to them in the ECAC field. However it dropped match-ups with Hockey East foes Northeastern (a team I would have loved to see in the NCAAs) and BC (giving up five goals in that one). Although Poulin did not score in bunches this year, the number one goal of any opponent is still to contain her as she could go off at any time. Kohanchuk is an overlooked player. Howe is the better overall goalie by a large margin. Sperry has something of a history of turning into a different player during the post-season, however. BU 4-Clarkson 2
Mercyhurst at Cornell. Almost certain that this game will be decided by special teams, as these are among the most penalized groups in the NCAA. On paper, ‘Hurst has a significantly better Power Play, while Cornell has the slight advantage on the PK. But we must recall that ‘Hurst has historically had a strength of schedule problem, and Cornell beat them handily in their one meeting this year. Jenner scored twice, and Laura Fortino was on the ice for three of the Big Red’s goals in that one. If ‘Hurst can contain those two, they have a shot. Cornell 4 – Mercyhurst 3
North Dakota at Minnesota. God almighty. Has this team not suffered enough? Now they get the famed ‘no money to send them anywhere’ slot as well? And they have to face a Minnesota squad whose only competition at the moment is history? The numbers, they are ugly. UND was outscored 23-9 in the five prior meetings, including a shut-out in the WCHA final. Sometimes, when teams have played this many times, familiarity breeds enough contempt that the stronger team loses focus and the weaker team finds a way to crack the code. I just don’t see this happening. UMN 4 – UND 1.
Bonus Kaz prediction: I feel Raty will be given the nod. However, here are the reasons the committee could choose one of the other finalists: Bozek is team captain, and Notions of Leadership ™ drive this award. She is also a top scorer among defenders, and that’s the one defensive metric really valued by the committee. Kessel led the nation in scoring, and that is always a good predictor, but I don’t know whether she is considered A Leader. I suspect not. I’d still bet on Raty.
February 28, 2013 § Leave a Comment
The one day…THE ONE DAY I don’t save as I go along. I worked for an hour on this post with my usual witty brilliance or brilliant wittiness and great insight, and it’s now in the ether. Which DOESN’T EVEN EXIST. Stupid pre-science theories.
So, Cliff Notes version: Annie Pankowski is a really good Junior hockey player.
My predictions for Kaz finalists: Raty, Bozek, Kessel, Decker, Dempsy, both Lamoureux, Babstock, Jenner, Coyne. Outside chance: Sabatine, Poulin, Carpenter, Brandt, Rigsby, Bellamy. Players who are carrying weak teams/are younger, but had good years and thus I think should be looked at: Smith, Vint, Mercer, Lefort, Howe, Tarr (who, you ask? Only player to crack top 50 for Ohio State). Usual whining about selection criteria blah blah blah Raty will win.
‘Hurst has three conference defeats for the first time since…ever, actually. They should still win, but given the rest of the slate was upset central as mediocre teams collided every week, bless their little hearts the CHA tournament should be a roll of the nice. Just throw the puck over the boards and have at it.
The ECAC and Hockey East will be full of desperation as it’s almost certain at least one undeserving WCHA team will take a spot in the national tourney, so conference tourney wins are huge. SLU/Quinnipiac is the only toss-up in the opening round of the ECAC, but the finals could feature Harvard versus the Clarkson team that has defeated it twice already this year, or Cornell. Cornell/Clarkson is where we see whether great defense really does defeat great offense. In Hockey East, Northeastern has some late-charging momentum with its Beanpot win, and BU is backing in with two losses, but I still feel BC has the biggest potential upside. All three of these teams should make it to the national post-season, but probably won’t
because of the WCHA. Now, all of you Easterners are looking askance because generally the complaint is the WCHA is under rather than over-represented. But the Wisconsin Anemics really don’t deserve a berth this year, unless they manage to find their hidden offense under someone’s old textbooks or something. Everyone is also hoping that the Minnesota Juggernaut of Destiny comes down en masse with the flu or gets bored or is freaked out by facing the only team that gave it any trouble this year and gets the yips. I find this unlikely. The Gophers have been disciplined for a front-runner and that will not go away. Four lines can score. Great D. Also of interest is which Duluth squad shows up. On any given weekend they can look technically sound or pretty average, they don’t have a dominating weapon, and unlike their in-state rivals they tend to not stay focused for three periods. OSU has not been totally woeful this year, so that series might be competitive depending on how much Duluth wants it. NDU is the real wild card here, as it is capable of beating any of the competitors other than Minnesota, but their team motto over the past five years is ‘who the hell knows?’
I recognize this post is high on prosody and low on statistical analysis (so what else is new?), but we’ll just pretend all the numbers were in the one that got lost.
In other words, I’m super-excited for the postseason and I hope you are too.
March 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Coming tomorrow. Also note our new Twitter address: @firstlinehockey.
August 12, 2011 § 2 Comments
Bleacher Report has released a list of its all-time top 50 female athletes. This is a transparent ploy for click-throughs since it’s in slideshow format. But at least it celebrates women in sport, and three hockey players made the cut. I annotate.
50. Mary T. Meagher. A swimmer. You’re going to be seeing a good number of swimmers on this list, and if you didn’t know about them beforehand it’s not going to help you understand them better. Or really any of the athletes involved. Because the captions…let’s just say they leave quite a bit to be desired in several areas.
49. Dawn Fraser. Ditto.
48. Althea Gibson. They’re obviously not going for social or historical impact as a major factor if she’s down here at 47 as a pioneering Black tennis champion.
47. Hannah Teter. Higher than Gibson. Right.
46. Manon Rheaume. First hockey player on the list. Inspired thousands of girls to lace up skates, and maybe made some men believe women could play the game. Although her use as a promotional gimmick in the semi-pro ranks might also have hurt us in that regard.
45. Mary Decker Slaney. A true distance-running legend.
44. Janet Evans. Does anyone else think these older athletes coming out of retirement is actually not a good trend? Athletic lives should have distinct stages so people can get on with other things in middle age.
43. Anne Donovan. They say ‘earned a national title as both a player and a coach.’ I presume this means in college and with the Seattle Storm, but I only say that because I happen to know some of the specifics. They don’t bother to say.
42. Marion Jones. Presuming she ranks this low because of drugs. Her status at the top of her game was unrivaled, in terms of both achievement and popularity.
41. Margaret Court. Did you know five women have held the single-year Slam? Such a high number, and it seems unlikely anyone will reach the mark again in our lifetimes.
40. Hayley Wickenheiser. Hockey player number two, and one of the few active athletes on this part of the list. A Canadian icon who continually takes on new challenges.
39. Wilma Rudolph. She tends to get overlooked among the fast and flashy track stars who followed. Good that some attention is paid to her here.
38. Fabiola Da Silva. When I was a teenager, I used to love coming home from school and watching Fabiola compete on TV. I thought she was the epitome of cool. The idea that she’s more important in the history of women and sport than Althea Gibson is crazy.
37. Picabo Street. This entry tells me she had “a lightly [sic] off-the-wall name.” Shouldn’t that be a net positive in the world of sports marketing? It garnered her a lot of attention. It certainly got her onto this list as the only skier, since Julia Mancuso should probably have made it too.
36. Nancy Lopez. First golfer and nice choice as a groundbreaking Latina in another super-white sport.
35. Katarina Witt. One of my favorite athletes as a child. Not only the epitome of grace but politically active and thoughtful, even working current events into some of her routines. Of course, this list calls her a “jack of all trades” for being “both a German figure skater and a model.” Because that part is difficult.
34. Cammi Granato. Highest-ranked hockey player, and inaccurately described as the first woman to be inducted into the HHOF. One of the first two, actually. But Angela James is nowhere to be found. Their place in history should forever be intertwined.
33. Mary Lou Retton. This seems like another low ranking for how culturally saturated she was in the ’80s. She made the Wheaties box!
32. Lisa Fernandez. Resisting, resisting a make-up joke here. Very important in raising the visibility of softball. Yet oddly the only softball player on the list, despite softball’s being one of the most popular women’s sports in terms of television viewership.
31. Nadia Comaneci. Duh.
30. Yani Tseng. It is ASTONISHING (or sadly not) how little attention this woman’s achievements have earned her in our allegedly 24-hour-sports culture. She’s won FIVE MAJORS and she’s only 22. Her personality is absolutely delightful. In ten years let’s see where she is on a comparable list, and whether any in the MSM know her name at that point.
29. Kristine Lilly. The Ageless Wonder. Still deserves more credit than she ever got for clearing a Chinese shot off the line in overtime of the ’99 World Cup Final.
28. Dorothy Hamill. Meh.
27. Olga Korbut. The list seems to be really skewed toward Olympic sports thus far.
26. Diana Taurasi. Our first basketball player. She’s such an interesting figure because she breaks down many stereotypes about how female athletes are supposed to behave (that they’re inherently nicer or more rule-abiding than men, for instance). The caption is particularly notable for being content-free.
25. Peggy Flemming. The (white) Olympic athletes just keep on coming.
24. Michelle Akers. Nice to see this generation of pioneering soccer players being honored. Would also have been nice to note that Akers achieved all she did while having to receive IVs at halftime because she suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
23. Nancy Lieberman. A groundbreaker in the world of women’s basketball whose high profile in the ’80s contributed to many of the successes we see in the women’s game today. And she’ll never let us forget it, either.
22. Sonja Henie. Again, the list seems to think it’s worth mentioning when an athlete is involved in show business, but not when she does other things with her life.
21. Candace Parker. They had to mention the dunks of course. Also important is the fact that she, along with Taurasi, helped bring a level of respect to women’s players that had previously been lacking in the MSM.
20. Marta. I’m impressed that she’s this far down the list. It seems about right. Incandescent talent, problematic sportsmanship, only comes to U.S. consciousness once every few years (and this is a list about the U.S., make no mistake).
19. Dara Torres. I feel fairly alone in being made uncomfortable rather than inspired by Torres. Again, I believe athletic careers should have defined beginnings and ends so people can get on with their lives. Type A personalities of this caliber disconcert me. But there’s no arguing her story is incredible.
18. Teresa Edwards. Good for them for honoring another player who had her biggest successes in the era just before the WNBA came onto the scene.
17. Serena Williams. Seventeen???? Are you KIDDING ME? Quite probably the greatest tennis player of all time. Look me in the eye and tell me you’d bet against her in a head-t0-head meeting with any of the players further up the list. Yes, her career numbers are going to be lower, but parity is greater these days and she’s also lost a good chunk of time to injury. Also, there’s the importance of being among the first black superstars in another lily-white sport. This is a ridiculous ranking.
16. Julie Krone. What an interesting choice! Horse-racing has fallen off the American sports radar, and it’s a shame that it’s taken this historic figure with it.
15. Ann Meyers. I know she’s important in basketball history, but I’m damned if I know why. Please enlighten me.
14. Sheryl Swoopes. I wonder how the ranking of the basketball players was really decided. Swoopes has had a huge impact, but so have the other players on this list. Seems like a toss-up.
13. Cheryl Miller. An execrable human being from all I’ve heard. If she’s this high, Marion Jones ought to have picked up a few more spots.
12. Chris Evert. She hasn’t been Evert-Lloyd for years. Get with it. A dominant tennis force and cultural figure, but in no way a better tennis player than Serena.
11. Joan Benoit Samuelson. Why is she this many spots higher than Slaney? Running people, let me know?
10. Lisa Leslie, Billie Jean King. BJK’s impact on women’s sports in so many arenas is undeniable. She seems like a top five figure. Lisa Leslie is a talented pro hoopster among other talented pro hoopsters. I suppose that they’re trying to make a distinction between ‘pure’ athletic achievement and affecting women’s sports in other ways.
9. Steffi Graf. Dominated the game and a classy, classy person. But Seles was right on her heels before the stabbing. Sad to think what could have been.
8. Tracy Caulkins. If anything, this list is certainly making me learn more about swimming history. Not a bad thing.
7. Bonnie Blair. She was the high water (ice?) mark of cool for us Winter Olympics watchers.
6. Annika Sorenstam. It’s amazing how quickly she’s fallen out of our consciousness, given how powerful she was within the game of golf during her career. Fame is a fickle hellcat.
5. Mia Hamm. Hard to underestimate her impact on a generation of American girls. It’s interesting to compare and contrast what’s happened with Abby Wambach, the equivalent figure of this generation, who has played for a very different national team in a very different era (and yes, I know they were together on the ’03 squad, but that was the beginning of the end of the U.S. era in world soccer).
4. Florence Griffith-Joyner. I did not know she was still the record holder in the 100 and 200. Managed it without steroids, too.
3. Martina Navratilova. No one will argue that this woman is a (perhaps the) scion of women’s sports, from her unrivaled dominance on the court, to her brave decision to be out, to her early embrace of weight training and fitness. I still think she and Serena would have a hell of a match, though.
2. Babe Didrikson. Should be rightly celebrated as one of sports’ greatest polymaths and achievers of either gender. And I don’t care what the new, mediocrely-researched-in-that-respect biography says, still gay. If only she’d been born thirty years later, we’d all know about her.
1. Jackie Joyner-Kersee. I don’t feel qualified to talk about this pick. If SI named her the greatest of the 20th century, who am I to argue? If they were going for cultural impact they could have shuffled some of these around, but the heptathlon is supposed to be the greatest measure of athletic skill, and she was a champion heptathlete.
I welcome your well-considered and thoughtful comments! If they’re not either of these things, they ain’t making it past the spam filter.
March 10, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Well, I guess that answers that question. The committee wants to give this award to a woman in her last year of college, and they are sticking with the idea that it’s important to have balance among the conferences. Agosta, Duggan, and BC’s Kelli Stack are the finalists. All are great hockey players who have bright futures ahead of them on their respective national teams. Despite my disappointment that Knight didn’t make the cut, you can’t really go wrong here.
February 21, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Friday-Sunday, February 25-27 – Best of three games, some of which are supposedly streaming PPV on America One
No. 8 RENSSELAER at No. 1 CORNELL
Friday: 7 p.m. Saturday: 4 p.m. Sunday: 4 p.m.
No. 7 ST. LAWRENCE at No. 2 HARVARD
Friday: 4 p.m. Saturday: 3 p.m. Sunday: 3 p.m.
No. 6 CLARKSON at No. 3 DARTMOUTH
Friday: 3:30 p.m. Saturday: 2 p.m. Sunday: 2 p.m.
No. 5 QUINNIPIAC at No. 4 PRINCETON
Friday: 7 p.m. Saturday: 4 p.m. Sunday: 4 p.m.
Hockey East Quarterfinals
All games streamed PPV at hockeyeastonline.tv
Saturday, February 26 (at Freitas Ice Forum, Storrs, Conn.)
No. 5 Northeastern at No. 4 Connecticut (1pm)
Saturday, February 26 (at Schneider Arena, Providence, R.I.
No. 6 Maine at No. 3 Providence College (2pm)
Saturday, March 5 (at Walter Brown Arena, Boston, Mass.)
Lowest seed vs. No. 1 Boston University (12/3pm)
Highest seed vs. No. 2 Boston College (12/3pm)
WCHA Playoffs – First Round – Best-of-Three
#6 Ohio State at #3 Minnesota (Friday 6:07 CT, Saturday 5:07 CT, Sunday if necessary 4:07 CT)
#7 Minnesota State at #2 Minnesota Duluth (Friday, Saturday and Sunday if necessary 7:07 pm CT)
#8 St. Cloud State at #1 Wisconsin (Friday and Saturday at 7:07 pm CT, highly theoretical Sunday game 4:07 CT)
#5 Bemidji State at #4 North Dakota (Friday and Saturday at 7:37 pm CT, Sunday if necessary 7:07 CT)
February 14, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Thanks for your patience in awaiting this follow-up post, all. I’m going to try and address some of the contributions folks have made over at WTS on the subject of cool and female athletes. The easiest way to do that, I think, is to try and explain why the first two athletes that came to my mind were T-Spoon and Martina Navratilova. First and foremost they share a certain kind of attitude to life and public perception: they are dedicated to being themselves, and they couldn’t care less whether it’s popular or socially acceptable. It’s no coincidence that these are two out athletes, either. People who are closeted or express latent homophobia toward themselves or others don’t make my list. Navratilova in particular sacrificed hundreds of thousands of dollars in endorsements because she had no interest in being ashamed about who she was.
Being strong in this way often precludes being warm and fuzzy. From what I’ve seen and heard, the coolest can be tremendously kind but they’re not always nice. Nice people are those I want to have a beer with, down-to-earth people. Being cool means being a cultural icon who in blazing her own path makes us want to follow her, and sometimes that can create a slightly larger-than-life quality. In both cases I’ve already cited, that is related to having a certain amount of success in one’s sport, since success is what creates influence. Cool people have fashion sense and care about looking good. Oh, and looking back at some of the suggestions, for me posing in swimsuit issues is a deal-breaker. It may be smart from a business perspective but you’re capitulating to The Man and making things more difficult for every female athlete who doesn’t want or have that image, and that’s uncool. Being cool definitely means being political as well as socially responsible, because caring about the world around you and doing something active about that is the height of cool.
Mia Hamm’s name was the one that came up most often in comments. Mia Hamm is an awesome human being and certainly one of the greatest athletes who has ever lived, and she’s had an immeasurable influence on girls in our culture. But she’s always been extremely concerned about the way she’s viewed (in both good and bad ways), and she’s also very shy; I don’t see her as someone with swagger. I believe you need swagger to make my list. It’s a little bit of arrogance, sure, but the arrogance of Ali, who could really pull it off. Bille Jean King in my view veers a little too far in the self-regard direction, although I’d be glad to hear disagreement on that point.
Here is the expression of the type of coolness I’m talking about:
Obviously Sanya Richards makes my list. As does Candace Parker, Althea Gibson (despite her later reclusive years), Picabo Street, Angela James, Esther Vergeer. Probably Flo Jo. Probably Holly Holm. Steffi Graf is pretty damn cool, although also very reserved so I’m on the fence there. Maybe Lauren Jackson (does that go too far in the purely attitudinal direction?). Ann suggested Babe Didrikson, who for much of her life was uber-cool. I’m a little leery about the PR marriage bit, but cognizant that things were extremely difficult for gay folks in her era. Michelle Kwan, Cat Osterman, and Kerry Walsh are cool. Jenny Thompson is cool. Buoyed by the success of the last post, I would love to continue a polite, respectful discussion in comments.
February 10, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Rankings for this week:
1. McGill (1)
2. Wilfrid Laurier (2)
3. StFX (3)
4. Alberta (4)
5. Brock (5)
6. Manitoba (6)
7. Calgary (7)
8. Guelph (8)
9. Windsor (9)
10. Saskatchewan (NR)
Wickenheiser has been facing some nasty behavior from college students who don’t want to see her on a university team (which made me feel bad about my own post on the subject), but even she can’t carry a team to number one all by herself, though she’s scored 40 points in 15 games. McGill’s top scorer is only 19th in the league and she’s a defenseman (sorry, trying to use the non-gendered ‘defender’ but it sounds wrong to me; damn patriarchy). They’re winning with team defense and goaltending. They’ve allowed by far the fewest goals of any team in CIS.
February 2, 2011 § Leave a Comment
GQ ran a spread on the 25 coolest athletes in recent memory. Needless to say they seem oblivious to the fact that women can be athletes (I know GQ worships the male form, but come on). Although it would have been uncool to give criteria, general suavity appeared to lead the list, combined with dominance in a given sport, cultural influence and counter-cultural chic. Womanizing also was a tacit theme, unfortunately. Evil Kneivel made the list in part because he enjoyed beating people up. It seems that despite its homoerotic tinges hegemonic masculinity is alive and well at GQ. There were also some choices that made perfect sense: Arthur Ashe, Muhammad Ali, Bjorn Borg, Jim Brown. These are men who were cool because they followed their own path and took us with them.
This got me thinking about how we might create a parallel list for women. My own personal proclivities run toward endearingly geeky, so my mind goes somewhat blank when asked to dub duchesses of cool. The first two who came to mind were Theresa Weatherspoon and Martina Navratilova. Help me out in comments either here or at Women Talk Sports. I’m sure together we can compile the ultimate statement.