Thursday, July 23, 2015

et ceteras

NAM
Erika and I never considered getting Sarah into pageants because we didn't want her to be a part of the "pageant world," for pretty much the same reasons as all the other parents who don't want that for their daughters.

But -- and you knew there was a but coming -- an exception to that rule happened upon us when Sarah was invited to try out for Florida's National American Miss (NAM) pageant. With NAM being a no-makeup, no-frills event, we felt that the usual pageant blather about building character and self-esteem was, in this case, not blather. After reading up on how contestants are judged; and seeing that contestants can also compete in a number of optional and separately judged categories; and knowing how devoted Sarah is to singing and acting; and knowing how talented she is -- we told her about the opportunity, told her she could audition if she wanted, and left the decision up to her.

She chose to audition, and after auditioning was invited to the actual pageant, which took place in Orlando this past weekend. She performed well in all three of the optional categories she selected, though she did not place in the top five in any of them. She did, however, place in the top 25 of her age group in the overall pageant, which is an outstanding achievement when you consider she had never competed in anything like this and was up against a field of either 129 or 140 contestants (I've heard both figures and don't know which is correct).

When her name was called as one of the top 25, I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I was for her. And while I felt somewhat bad for her when her name was not then called as one of the top five, I also found myself happy that her falling short of that distinction would keep her from getting too full of herself.

Plus -- and I'm not proud of this -- I was a little happy she didn't finish first because then she would have advanced to the nationwide event in California, and I have no idea how we could have afforded that without going into debt. Between entry fees, formal dress, other attire, hotel, etc., these things are expensive!

Anyway, Sarah has already decided to do it again next year and Erika and I are excited for it. Having been through it once and seen the husband-and-wife owners personally working at it and talking with contestants' parents, I am comfortable recommending it for your daughter. It did not escape our notice that all of the top five contestants, both in the overall pageant and in the optional categories, came across as anything other than fake.

NAM's web site is here if you are interested. I love you Sarah! 



Disastrous Deal
In my previous post, I already mentioned my thoughts on Obama's deal with Iran the multi-national Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. I am beyond confident that a large majority of Americans (and a unanimous number of Americans who know what they're talking about) agree with me.

But if you still need convincing that the deal is horrific and dangerous, just consider this: Israel and Saudi Arabia are united in opposing it, and Saudi Arabia is making noise about attacking Iran to nip its nuclear capabilities in the bud.

If you still need convincing after that, just consider that Eliot Engel (the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee) and Steny Hoyer (the House's #2 Democrat) have both voiced their opposition to the deal. And while you're at it, think about the kind of cojones it takes for anyone, much less a Democrat, to openly oppose anything that is desired by The Exalted One.


Disgraceful "Democrat"
President Obama is the commander in chief of all branches of the U.S. military. Last Thursday, a terrorist siding with our enemies in the War on Terror Overseas Contingency Operation deliberately attacked and murdered four U.S. Marines and one U.S. Navy logistics specialist on American soil -- and not only on American soil, but on military property specifically. Because Obama is commander in chief, the murdered personnel were in essence his employees.

From coast to coast, at buildings both public and private, American flags were lowered to half-staff in honor of the slain. Except, that is, for the American flag at the White House, which was kept at full-staff. It was not until after five days of mounting public criticism that our dear POTUS finally decided to have the White House flag lowered to its proper position.

It is easy for us conservatives to say "What Would Reagan Do" if such an attack happened while he was in office, but why just Reagan? What about Clinton? What about Carter? What about either Bush, either Roosevelt, or either Adams? What about McKinley? What about Washington or Jefferson? Hell, what about Martin Van Buren or Chester Arthur?

There is not a single POTUS in history -- other than Obama, that is -- who would not have immediately had the flag lowered out of respect for the deceased, for the loved ones of the deceased, and for the sacrificial spirit of our service personnel in general.

As you may recall, Obama is the same POTUS who had spotlights illuminate the White House in rainbow colors on the very night of the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling ... Obama is the same POTUS who, despite admitting that he did not know the facts surrounding Henry Louis Gates's arrest, wasted no time saying that the arresting officer behaved "stupidly" ... Obama is the same POTUS who has wasted no time broadcasting what he thinks about criminal cases that are still awaiting trial ... Obama is the same POTUS who refers to Iran's Ali Khamenei as "supreme leader," but refers to fellow American politicians only by first name (Diane, John, etc.) rather than observe the traditional protocol of using their titles (Senator Feinstein, Congressman Boehner, etc.).

In the sub-heading above, I put the word "democrat" in quotation marks because democrats, regardless of whether the D is lowercase or uppercase, are by definition supposed to at least have respect for the opinions of those they claim to serve. But Barack Obama, the titular head of the American Democratic Party, clearly has the opposite of respect for any public opinion that is contrary to his own. Instead he has contempt, and it's not an outrageous inference to believe he has contempt not merely for differing opinions but for the humans who hold those opinions. If he did not have personal contempt, he would not take actions that are the equivalent of spitting in the faces of our soldiers and flipping off observant Christians and Jews. And this is my long way of explaining that I did not put the word "disgraceful" in quotation marks because our POTUS is, in fact, a disgrace.


Blago!
I saw this headline and was immediately reminded of this post I wrote more than six years ago. It does not make much sense for me to sympathize with Rod Blagojevich. He certainly appears to be crooked. But I still believe he was railroaded so that others, who were guilty of more, could skitter away unharmed. And I find it encouraging that his sentence has been thrown out and five of his convictions vacated for the time being.


Coming Soon
I have a number of projects in the hopper. Which is to say that I have started several posts which I've failed to finish. That happens when you have a family to feed, your blog does not generate money, and you find yourself eager to write about Topic B before you've finished writing about Topic A.

My plan is to complete those unfinished posts in the near future and finally post them. One is about a threat to our corntry that is receiving scandalously little press. Another is about the recent brouhaha over the so-called Confederate flag. Another is about Planned Parenthood and abortion. Another is about how the Right, despite the Left's claims to the contrary, is where you will really find respect for science among American political thinkers.


Links
One of the most moving letters ever written from a parent to a child. In this case, an adopted child.

More about the book that helped inspire the above letter.

Read this if you think athletes are dumb. Even if you think they are only generally dumb. Seeing its headline made me think of this item I read 23 years ago. The second link is to an article written about Troy Vincent when he was coming out of college. As you may recall, he went on to play 15 years in the NFL; was a team captain for 13 of those 15 years; is now on the Board of Directors for the University of Wisconsin Foundation; was the first active NFL player to serve on the National Board of Directors for Pop Warner Little Scholars Football; and is currently the NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations.


Until next time, take care!


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Chattehran

Today a gunman opened fire at two military recruitment centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, killing four U.S. Marines. At least one other military person (a 24-year-old female sailor) was wounded and in surgery as of the last report.

To the surprise of literally nobody on this planet who has a brain, the shooter's name was Muhammad. Specifically, he was an individual named Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who was born in Kuwait and later became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Three years ago he graduated from UT-Chattanooga with a science degree and three days ago he started an Islamic blog. On one of his blog's two posts, he wrote of Mohammed's early followers and implored "Allah to make us follow their path...to know what role we need to play to establish Islam in the world."

Laughably, the FBI's Knoxville Field Office has declared "it would be premature to speculate about the motives of the shooter at this time." Grotesquely, other federal officials have tried to direct our eyes away from Abdulazeez's religion, with U.S. District Attorney Bill Killian referring to the shooting as "an act of domestic terrorism" and The Exalted One President Obama referring to Abdulazeez as "a lone gunman." (emphases mine)

First of all, it is often too early to claim knowledge about other people's motives, and sometimes it is too early to speculate responsibly about them. But it is never too early to simply speculate, especially when said people leave glaring clues three days before they act.

Secondly, passing verbal gas about Abdulazeez being a "citizen" who was alone when he murdered is nothing more than a disgraceful, naked attempt to pretend like he is somehow different than all the other terrorists who have been attacking Americans for the last 36 years, when everyone with a brain knows those terrorists have all been Muslims.

Yes, I am aware that Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing 20 years ago, was not a Muslim. But unlike 98% of journalists and 99% of leftists, I am also aware that McVeigh was an avowed atheist who declared "science is my religion" -- so all of you excuse-mongering libs should do the world a favor by putting at least a temporary stop to your anti-Christianity and anti-Semitic anti-Judasim caterwauling.

The most annoying feature of contemporary liberalism is not that it prefers tribalism over individuality, or that it enjoys bullying people into shutting off their brains and marching in ideological lockstep. As annoying (and in fact terrifying) as those features are, the most annoying and terrifying aspects of liberalism are its utter cowardice in the face of evil and its tendency to attack the good while letting the bad walk free.

In the here and now, Muslims decapitate non-Muslims and post videos of the beheadings on YouTube. They oppress females, forcing them to wear burkas and undergo genital mutilation. They put homosexuals to death. They commit each of these atrocities in the name of their religion and cite specific scriptures as their bases for doing so.

Yet the response of American liberals is not to express outrage about these atrocities. To the contrary, their first reaction is to use the word "Islamaphobe" to condemn anyone who does express outrage. Their second reaction is to tell Christians to "get off" their "high horse" (in the words of President Obama) because, you know, the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages commenced a Spanish Inquisition to stop unjust executions.

I am no fan of the so-called Confederate flag and I agree with liberals that it was correct to remove it from South Carolina's statehouse grounds. But at the same time, I do not believe that the majority of people who fly it privately, most of whom do so as a matter of geographical pride, are bigots champing at the bit to reintroduce Jim Crow. I find it disturbing that liberals insist we embrace nuance and understanding when it comes to Muslims who right now engage in slavery and genocide, yet see no need for nuance or understanding when it comes to Southerners flying the Confederate flag or wearing it on their Lynyrd Skynyrd shirts.

Getting back to that utter cowardice I mentioned, think about how liberals treat different people: Though they routinely vilify those who are sure to respond peacefully (Christians, Jews, Mississippians), they are flawlessly fast to jump to the defense of the one religion whose adherents are known to be violent. Can anyone think of a more textbook example of cowardice?

Amidst all of this, liberalism's standard-bearer, President Obama, expects us to take his word that the "deal" he worked out with Iran is in our interest? The same deal that gave the Iranians pretty much everything they wanted even though they came to the table in a position of weakness while we came in a position of strength? The same deal that did not require unannounced inspections and did not require the release of Americans being held hostage in Iran? The same deal that allows Iran to deny us entrance to sites we want to inspect? The same deal whose process for appealing such denials takes a farcical 24 days, which is more than ample time for the Iranians to remove everything they don't want us to find? The same deal that lacks any enforcement teeth, and therefore all but green lights Iran's acquisition of nuclear arms?

FU POTUS. I can't believe I am saying this about an American president who was elected by the American people, but when I look at this "deal' with Iran in the context of everything else you have done since 2009, especially where foreign policy is concerned, the only rational explanation for your actions is that you: 1) don't care if innocents die; 2) have no problem with harm happening to the country that elected you; and 3) would like for individual liberty to be expunged so people won't be free to live their lives in ways you don't like.

I wish I could take comfort in the knowledge that history will judge you harshly, but I find no comfort there because I know you are imperiling the future of my children.

And worst of all, I believe you don't care one bit how many lives get lost, destroyed, or otherwise subordinated on the altar of your elephantine ego.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

et ceteras

Thanks to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, most of my posts since April have centered around hockey. But I have not been ignoring everything else, so here are a few of what Thomas Sowell might call "random thoughts on the passing scene."

I will start with something uniting and uplifting, since those qualities won't be evident when I write about politics. That something is the unmanned spacecraft New Horizons, which today will fly narrowly past Pluto and its five orbiting moons, then proceed into and beyond the Kuiper belt.

When New Horizons left Earth back on January 19, 2006, its detailed flight coordinates for today were already programmed into it. Because flying it remotely is not possible -- any commands from Earth would take more than four hours to reach it -- today's brush with Pluto is a one-and-done opportunity. Plus, this combination of factors makes it impossible for the spacecraft to orbit Pluto and linger for a while. Therefore, there will be no do-overs if something goes wrong.

During its approach, New Horizons has already sent back stunning photographs of the icy dwarf planet and revealed things we never knew. When it blasts by at a speed of 8.7 miles per second, it will basically start -- not continue -- mankind's gathering of information about the icy dwarf. So little has been learned about Pluto in the 85 years since it was discovered that Alan Stern, the renowned planetary scientist and principal New Horizons investigator, recently remarked that "we're not planning to rewrite any textbooks, we're planning to write them from scratch."

Sitting inside the spacecraft are some of the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, the inquisitive astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930 ... As I type this sentence a little after midnight, the spacecraft has been flying for more than 3,462 days and 9 hours, and is scheduled to arrive at its destination in less than 7 hours and 28 minutes ... Before long it will be beyond Pluto, and then beyond the Kuiper belt, and Tombaugh's ashes will become the first human remains to leave the solar system.

Like Charles Krauthammer put it when rhapsodizing about New Horizons last Thursday: "For the wretched race of beings we surely are, we do, on occasion, manage to soar."

*     *     *     *     *

Now, unfortunately, I return to my regularly scheduled programming:

After officially announcing her presidential candidacy, it took Hillary Clinton three months to grant her first interview to the national media. And when that interview finally happened last week, she was incapable of finishing it without telling the kind of whopper that would have ended a Republican's career.

Specifically, Clinton claimed to have "never had a subpoena" regarding her unauthorized use of a private server and private email address to conduct all of her government business while Secretary of State. But it turns out she has actually been served three subpoenas about the matter, and two of them were served before she destroyed evidence by wiping her server clean.

Of course the media has ignored downplayed this story. After all, the media is one-half of the Democrat-Media Complex and it does everything it can to protect the other half. However, it will only take one Republican candidate broaching this story in one presidential debate to make big-time hay of it. There is no reason for Republicans to fear facing her in the general election, and I will not be surprised if she fails to even make it to the general election.

*     *     *     *     *

I should clarify things by saying there is no reason for Republicans to fear Hillary unless my fellow GOP primary voters somehow make Donald Trump our nominee -- for would-be Emperor Donald is every bit as clothesless as would-be Empress Hillary.

Clinton attended Trump's most recent wedding ... Trump has donated to the Clinton Foundation ... As recently as 2008, a year in which Clinton happened to be running for president, Trump said this: "I'm a big fan of Hillary. She's a terrific woman. She's a friend of mine."

Trump has used eminent domain to seize other people's property without paying them for it, and has then turned around and used that property to make money for himself.

There is nothing inherently wrong about filing for bankruptcy, but Trump has done it four times.

He is pro-tariff and anti-free trade.

He practices crony capitalism, which has more in common with socialism than it does with the free market vision of Friedman, Laffer, and Reagan.

Finally, I do believe that a person's personal life is just that and we should not throw stones from our glass houses. However, it's not unreasonable to wonder if the fact that Donald Trump has been divorced more times than the other 44 presidents combined indicates something about his character. Especially once you remember that he once said "if Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her." 

Sure, it's cathartic to hear him criticize our governments's ambivalence toward illegal immigration. But when pontificating about illegal immigration less than four years ago, the very same Donald Trump lambasted the GOP for being "mean-spirited" and accused Milquetoast Mitt Romney of being "maniacal." So who knows what he really thinks?

The only way he gets the nomination is if the GOP's primary voters lose their collective marbles upon entering the polling booth.

*     *     *     *     *

Nonetheless, there is no getting around the fact that Trump's recent comments about illegal immigration have gotten the big picture right even when they've erred on facts.

And there is no getting around this: Trump's recent rise in the polls is almost entirely the result of his recent comments about illegal immigration.

Illegal aliens do commit crime at higher rates than legal immigrants ... In general they do not represent Mexico's best, brightest, or even most diligent ... They drive down the wages of legal immigrants and native-born Americans alike ... Sanctuary cities are engaging in illegal defiance of the United States, and by their sanctuary status they have caused law-abiding people to be murdered and raped ... Go here if you want to read some numbers about repeat criminality among illegal aliens that such cities have released, often in spite of the federal government explicitly requesting that they not ... Such cities should be stripped of any and all federal funds they are scheduled to receive, and their elected representatives who voted for sanctuary status should be sitting behind bars waiting for a jury trial in federal court.

The two things I suggested in the previous sentence almost certainly won't happen, but a majority of the American people believes that one or both of them should ... Americans do not want migrants gunned down coming across the border, but they do want the border secured and they do want those who are here illegally to be sent back ... They approve of immigration that is legal and orderly, but they have a right to demand a stop be put to immigration that is illegal, underground, and anarchic ... Their anger is justified, and any politician who wants to win next November had better 1) acknowledge that fact, and 2) not insult the people's intelligence when he talks about the issue.

*     *     *     *     *

If you are one of those who have been fretting since the late 1980's about global warming, you can stop fretting because an ice age will be commencing less than 20 years from now, thanks to a particular oscillation of two of the sun's layers. It's not some superstitious religious types who are saying this -- it's scientists!

So now I'm waiting for the Left to start a campaign to have humanity undertake climate-warming measures to stave off the impending doom. Surely it will tell everyone to drive gas guzzlers. Surely it will demand an increase in coal-produced electricity production, and surely it will recommend that we all set our thermostats to 68 degrees. Right?  

*     *     *     *     *

Finally, I am done for now but will be back soon. Take care.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Mankind's Greatest Hour

Today, as we fire up our grills and crack open our beers, let us remember why we even have a July 4th holiday: to commemorate the greatest act of shared, selfless courage the world has ever seen.

Everybody should know that Thomas Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence. Most people know the names of a handful of the 56 men who signed it, such as John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, and of course Jefferson himself. But few people seem to realize that when those men signed their names, they were committing what was considered an act of treason against the British crown, punishable by death. Those men were property owners who were successful in their lives and businesses. Their lives were comfortable and they stood to lose everything by signing the Declaration -- yet they chose to sign it anyway, because they knew that casting off the crown and forming a new government based on individual liberty was the right thing to do, not only for their own descendants but for all of humanity. And here is what happened to some of those men after they signed the Declaration:

Five of them became prisoners of war.

Nearly one-sixth of them died before the war ended.

British forces burned, and/or looted, the homes and properties of nearly one-third of them.

When the British did that to the property of William Floyd, he and his family fled and spent the next seven years living as refugees without income. His wife died two years before the war ended.

After being forced into the wilderness by British forces, John Hart struggled to make his way home. When he finally got there, he found that his wife was dead and his 13 children were missing. He died without ever seeing them again.

Richard Stockton was dragged from his bed and sent to prison while his property was ravaged. From the day of his release from prison until the day he died, he had to rely on charity from others to feed his family.

Francis Lewis’s wife was imprisoned and beaten. Meanwhile, his wealth was plundered. His last years were spent as a widower living in poverty.

Thomas Nelson Jr.’s home was captured and occupied by British General Cornwallis, who used it as what we would now call an operations center. Therefore, Nelson ordered his troops to destroy his own home with cannon fire during the Battle of Yorktown. To assist in funding the war, he used his own credit to borrow 2 million dollars, which today would equal more than 25 billion dollars. Repaying that debt bankrupted him, and when he died he was buried in an unmarked grave.

It is a safe bet that fewer than one percent of our citizens have ever heard of these people, much less know anything about the devastating sacrifices they made so that future generations could have the freedom necessary to build the kind of upwardly-mobile, always-progressing society we would come to take for granted.

The Founding Fathers bequeathed to us a wonderful gift called America, and we owe it to our children to make sure we don’t allow that gift to be destroyed. We should never hear the words “Fourth of July” without feeling a skip in our heart and a tear in our eye.

Much thanks to Jeff Jacoby, Paul Harvey, and all the others who have written and spoken about the fates of the signers, to keep their story alive.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A une fougueuse

If he had he been born a few centuries earlier, he would have been a coureur des bois -- one of those tough, determined Frenchmen who used birchbark canoes to depart what is now known as Quebec, paddling across thousands of miles of rivers in the wild interior of what is now the United States and Canada, trapping beaver as they went and bartering with the indigenous people that some of us (including me) still refer to as American Indians.

The coureur des bois were daring, and so is he... Their tenacity, like his, far exceeded the average man's... They were strong, and so is he... They defied the odds, and so has he.

Martin St. Louis (pronounced Mar-tan San Lou-ee) was born 40 years ago in Laval, Quebec. He lists at 5'8" and 176 pounds, which does not sound like the body of a professional athlete, but a professional athlete is what he is -- and an exceptional one at that. While St. Louis stands neither tall nor massive, he does stand strong, with thighs that have been likened to tree trunks, and he is possessed with the heart of a lion.

*     *     *     *     *

Playing the game of hockey, St. Louis has always been smaller than those he went up against, and has always refused to let that make a difference. As a kid he led his midget league in scoring, only to be left off of the provincial midget team because of his size.

The most direct route to the NHL is to play in junior leagues, and all the junior teams knew how prolific a scorer he was. Nonetheless, because of his size he received little interest from them.

In order to keep his prospects open, he crossed the border and accepted a hockey scholarship from the University of Vermont. Playing there from 1993 to 1997, he was a two-time finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and set school records for points (267) and assists (176). Those records still stand 18 years after his collegiate days came to an end.

The close-mindedness of hockey scouts was confirmed when a career of that caliber generated almost no interest from NHL clubs. St. Louis was never drafted and the only organization to grant him a tryout (Ottawa) did not take him, so he wound up signing a contract with the minor league Cleveland Lumberjacks of the IHL.

Impressed with his production in Cleveland, the Calgary Flames brought him under contract and assigned him to their AHL affiliate in New Brunswick. Though he eventually cracked the Flames' NHL roster in October 1998, he was used sparingly and they left him exposed in the 2000 NHL Expansion Draft. Then, when he went untaken in that draft, the Flames let him go.

St. Louis was 25 years old and it looked like his NHL career might be over after a grand total of four goals and zero playoff appearances.

*     *     *     *     *

Fortunately for him and all true hockey fans, the Tampa Bay Lightning gave him another chance and he debuted with them on October 6, 2000.

At first St. Louis struggled to find his mojo in the Sunshine State and did not score for weeks; however, he eventually got going and broke into the big time during the 2002-03 season, when he tied for the team lead with 33 goals and added 37 assists. That season's squad won the first division title in franchise history and put the franchise back into the playoffs for the first time in seven years. St. Louis scored seven goals during those playoffs, three of which were game-winners.

The Bolts faced Washington in the opening round and after dropping the first two games on home ice, they won four in a row to advance past the opening round for the first time in team history. St. Louis scored the series-winning goal in triple overtime of Game Six, and you can watch it by going here (though all 44 seconds are worth your time, the play that ended with the winning goal starts at the 00:32 mark).

*     *     *     *     *

If the 2002-03 season was his coming out party, the 2003-04 season was his exclamation point. With 38 goals and 56 assists in the regular season, he rang up 94 overall points to win the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer -- then followed that up with 24 points (9 goals, 15 assists) in the playoffs.

In addition to the Art Ross, St. Louis won the Lester B. Pearson Award for the NHL's most valuable player as determined by a vote of the players, plus the Hart Memorial Trophy for the NHL's most valuable player as determined by a vote of the members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association.

But ah, those playoffs! Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup that year, and it was during the Cup Finals that Martin St. Louis scored the most memorable goal in franchise history. To put the cherry on top, he scored it against the team that had let him go four years earlier.

The Bolts had the best record in the NHL and thus had home ice advantage for the finals. However, when Game Six started, they were trailing the Calgary Flames three games to two. That game was played in Calgary and the Flames' red-jerseyed fans were deafeningly loud, doing everything they could to tilt the ice in their team's favor so it could become the first Canada-based franchise to win the Cup in 11 years.

When regulation time ended, the game was tied 2-2... Then the Bolts and Flames battled fiercely throughout the first overtime, yet no one scored... Then, 33 seconds into the second overtime, St. Louis pounced on a rebound of Tim Taylor's shot and rifled it into the top of the net to force Game Seven back in Tampa. The Lightning would go on to win Game Seven and secure the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

*     *     *     *     *

Those were the first two consecutive NHL seasons that St. Louis managed to complete in their entirety. He was just shy of his 28th and 29th birthdays when they came to their respective ends, and to put that in perspective, consider that the average age at which an NHL player retires is 28 years and 62 days.

Because those seasons included him winning the Cup and establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with, I am sure he would rank them at the top of his career highlight list. Yet they were "merely" the beginning of his career at hockey's highest level, and over the ensuing decade-plus he made such a mark that he stands a better-than-even chance of being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

St. Louis appeared in six All-Star Games... He won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy three times between 2010 and 2013... For the 2006-07 season, he notched a career-high points total of 102 (43 goals, 59 assists)... For 2009-10, he equaled his earlier Art Ross-winning points total of 94, and in 2010-11 he exceeded it with 99... Then, in 2012-13, a full nine years after he first won the Art Ross, St. Louis led the NHL in scoring and won it again at the age of 37. The only player to have gone longer between his first and final times winning the Art Ross was Wayne Gretzky himself -- yet Gretzky was only 33 when he won it for the last time.

*     *     *     *     *

As far as playing style is concerned, St. Louis is best described as a spark plug. He attacked like the Tasmanian Devil of cartoon fame, never giving up on a play, legs constantly moving like pistons in an internal combustion engine.

For much of his career, well into his thirties, speed was his forte. Opponents' hearts stopped whenever he exploded into open ice with the puck on his stick, for it was no secret that he could snap it wherever he wanted in the blink of an eye. And, although he had a sniper's shot, he also had a "Magic Johnson sense" for knowing where he should pass the puck to set better-positioned teammates up to score.

Despite being undersized, he could fight through checks as good as anyone and never shied away from doling out punishment. Although some claimed he was soft on defense, that is belied by the fact he often played on the penalty kill and racked up 29 short-handed goals.

St. Louis's training regimen and off-ice workouts are the stuff of legend. Well after he became an established star and leader, he continued to train so diligently that former GM Jay Feaster quipped that "Martin St. Louis still thinks he could get cut tomorrow."

His reputation for humility was buttressed not only by his belief that he was "cut-able" but by his interaction with people around town. St. Louis did not seek attention but everyone knew him when they saw him, and he was quick to acknowledge their glances and happy to engage in small talk.

A friend of mine has played for years in one of those adult hockey beer leagues, and it just so happens that the year the Lightning won the Stanley Cup was the same year in which my friend's team won the "Stanley Keg" for the second season in a row. The night they won said trophy, they went out to celebrate and ran into none other than Martin St. Louis himself, and the NHL's scoring leader talked to them about hockey and congratulated them on their victory.

Thousands of similar anecdotes regarding the undersized Quebecker exist around this metropolitan area. Another friend of mine encountered him several times at Panera Bread and has nothing but good things to say about him.

*     *     *     *     *

I have been a sports fan for as many of my 44 years as I can recall, and there is no denying that the relationship between fans and players is more familiar and personal in hockey than it is in the other "big four" sports. Yet when it came to Martin St. Louis and the people in the Tampa Bay area, that relationship felt even more familiar. Like my good friend and former co-worker Brooke said two months ago: "His story was our greatest story."

Simply put, he and the Tampa Bay metropolitan area had things in common. The stiff-minded didn't believe that Martin St. Louis could play NHL hockey, and he proved them wrong in spades. Likewise, the stiff-minded didn't believe that Tampa Bay would support an NHL franchise, and we proved them wrong in spades.

No matter how much he succeeded at every level of the game, the naysayers looked down their noses at him until doing so made them seem ridiculous. Likewise, no matter how much we proved that Tampa Bay is hockey country, the naysayers looked down their noses at us.

At long last, he led our team to a championship that proved the naysayers wrong, and as that championship was won, we cheered exuberantly and took delight in knowing that the naysayers were irritated by our happiness.

In a way that probably won't make sense unless you were here, it felt like he and the fans were united. This sounds strange since he was the one doing the work, but on a psychological level it felt like we were with him in that birchbark canoe, thrilled to stick it to the elite with every dip of the oars. His contract even had a no-trade clause, which seemed to be the ultimate confirmation that he was one of us.

Nobody in these parts bothered to use his full name, or even his correct first name. He was simply "Marty." Walk into any bar in the region and use the name "Marty" in conversation, and even if you never said the words "Lightning" or "hockey," there was a one hundred percent chance that everyone knew you were talking about Martin St. Louis.

Then, after that Stanley Cup championship and all those high-scoring years ... after all the awards mentioned above ... after another deep playoff run that saw the Bolts come within a goal of reaching the Cup finals in 2011 ... after almost 14 calendar years of Martin St. Louis going into battle wearing a Lightning uniform ... after all that, the abject weirdness of the 2013-14 season came a-callin'.

*     *     *     *     *

The Bolts were not a floundering team in 2013-14. They were a talented bunch that spent almost the entire season in the thick of the playoff race, and their roster, while young, overflowed with the kind of potential that suggested they might be able to make a Cup run if only "the kids" could perform with the wisdom of players who had a few more years on them.

Martin St. Louis was the team captain. As such, he took the youngsters under his wing to teach them how to succeed in the National Hockey League. Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat were especially responsive, as they became very productive contributors and ultimately finished second and third in the voting for NHL Rookie of the Year.

When leading scorer Steven Stamkos went down with a grotesquely broken leg, St. Louis put the team on his back and willed them forward. Everyone followed his example and the team kept pace in the playoff chase. With his 39th birthday months away, he continued making crisp assists and slipping pucks in nets.

But when Canada's Olympic roster was announced in mid-season and he was not on it, his reaction, even in public, was infantile. Steve Yzerman was not only the Lightning's general manager, he was also the executive director of Canada's national team, and rumors quickly "escaped" claiming that 1) St. Louis blamed Yzerman for not convincing the rest of the committee to name him to the team, and 2) he therefore felt like he could not be associated with Yzerman.

St. Louis did nothing to quell the rumors once they "escaped" into the international press. Constantly asked about them, all he did was offer pouty-faced remarks that he was "not going to talk about that." In other words, he repeatedly confirmed his self-absorbed discontent without saying the words. Not exactly what a leader is supposed to do.

Eventually, he of the no-trade clause demanded that he be traded, and on top of that, demanded that he be traded specifically to the New York Rangers. Because of the no-trade clause in his contract, he could veto any trade Yzerman worked out with a team other than the Rangers, and he made it clear that he would do that even as he made it clear he did not want to play for the Lightning any more.

Essentially, he held the team that once rescued his career hostage, and in so doing he held the fans who admired him hostage. Again, not exactly what a leader is supposed to do. What must rookies like Johnson, Palat, and Nikita Kucherov have thought when they saw their captain behaving like a child?

Eventually Martin St. Louis got his wish. He was dealt to the Rangers, and when he got to New York, one of the first things he said to the assembled media was that he was excited to finally play "in a big market." It reeked not only of a player wanting to play for a different team, but of a player telling his longtime fans that they weren't good enough for him. It reeked of an entitled prima donna grown a thousand times too big for his britches. In short, it reeked of everything he was not supposed to be, and those of us in the Bay Area took his exit far more personally that we have taken the exit of any other pro athlete who has ever plied his trade in these parts.

*     *     *     *     *

It was -- is -- hard to believe that a man could flush 14 years of goodwill down the crapper over not making an Olympic team that he was unlikely to make in the first place. He had been left off of previous Olympic teams, and in 2014 he was no spring chicken and there were plenty of much younger, equally qualified players available for what he perceived as "his" spot.

Rumors trickled out that St. Louis was using the Olympic matter as a red herring, and I find these rumors to be more compelling than him forcing a trade solely because he felt snubbed.

Some of the rumors held that St. Louis's wife, Heather, had been pressuring him for years to move to New York so she could be closer to family (she is from Connecticut just outside of NYC). These rumors imply that by exploiting the Olympic matter, he protected Heather from a public backlash. I would also add that if this rumor tells the whole story, exploiting the Olympics also protected him from being ridiculed as a vaginal sort of person who can't stand up to his wife.

Other rumors held that he wanted to move to New York because his sons, who are becoming involved in competitive hockey, would not have to travel far from home to face the kind of top-tier competition that will be preferable for them to perfect their skills and garner the most attention from pro scouts and college recruiters.

Both of those rumors make sense and I suspect that there is some truth to both of them. Perhaps the Olympic matter also played some part. Perhaps there were other issues no one has speculated about. And I do believe that he is under no obligation to tell us.

But still. Why give a middle finger to the Lightning and their fans? Why behave in a way that contradicts your entire reputation? After all, that reputation has so much to do with both your current success and your potential future success once your playing days are far behind you.

The question of why? resonates, and gives rise to the question of whether the fans had been taken for a ride all along.

*     *     *     *     *

We, the fans, did move on. We have lives to live, and we accepted the situation as one of those things that sucks but isn't worth losing sleep over.

Or so we thought, until the 2015 playoffs rolled around and the paths of Martin St. Louis and the Tampa Bay Lightning crossed in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Rangers and Bolts met with a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals on the line, which meant it was no regular season game and suddenly the thought of St. Louis's current team advancing at our expense was one of the worst things imaginable.

In Game Two, St. Louis was positioned at the point during a 5-on-3 power play. A pass came to him and when he turned to take it, he slipped and fell to the ice, leaving the puck exposed. Tyler Johnson scooped it up, raced the other way, and scored a short-handed goal that shifted the momentum of the game, which the Lightning wound up winning 6-2. It almost seemed like divine retribution, as if God himself had pushed St. Louis over to teach him a lesson about the wages of pride.

In Game Four, when St. Louis scored 5:08 into the third period, he poured gas on the fire by pointing up toward the Amalie Arena stands and yelling "fuck you guys." The cameras caught it and it didn't require much acumen to read his lips. Admittedly, his gesture might have been intended for the owner's box and his barb meant for Yzerman and Tampa Bay management, not for Tampa Bay fans, but the optics were what they were -- and even if he was cursing management, doesn't that prove that his peevish departure from here really was over something petty and not over more important family issues?

When the series ended with the Lightning defeating the Rangers in seven games, many Tampa Bay fans were just as happy about our team being the one that prevented St. Louis from winning another Stanley Cup than they were about our team keeping itself in the running for the Cup.

*     *     *     *     *

His 2014-15 season was not up to his standards, but was still productive. 21 goals and 31 assists in 74 games, with a plus-minus of +12, is very respectable. Especially for someone his age.

His playoffs, however, were far from good. There were fanned shots galore and he finished at -1 with a paltry 3.1% shooting percentage. Before this year, his worst-ever playoff shooting percentage had been 14.5%. His best-ever is the 28.0% he shot in 2003.

After Game Seven, St. Louis was open about the fact that his production wasn't what he wanted of himself, and wasn't what should inspire the up-against-the-salary-cap Rangers to offer him a new contract when his expired at the end of June. He said he would have to weigh his options about continuing to play in the NHL. It was unlike anything else he had ever said, and even for those of us who harbor bitter feelings about his inglorious departure from Florida, it was hard not to feel for him.

*     *     *     *     *

June ended two days ago, and St. Louis's contract ended along with it.

The New York Rangers, for whom he so wanted to play, made no attempt to re-sign him, even at a reduced rate.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils came calling. But apparently he thought whatever they offered wasn't worth the added wear and tear on his body, or he decided that he didn't want to keep playing when he couldn't hold his own the way he used to.

As I type this sentence it is 10:14 p.m. Eastern Time on July 2, 2015, and Martin St. Louis announced his retirement earlier today.

Part of me is filled with schadenfreude. That part of me feels happy that he did not win a championship with another team.

Part of me is filled with regret. That part of me feels sorry to see him go, because he was one for the ages and was extremely good for the game; and, let's face it, my team would not have become a champion without him.

His statement this morning said this: I have been blessed to play for 16 years in the NHL, it has been an amazing ride. I would like to thank the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers organizations and owners for providing me the opportunity to play the sport I love for so many years. I could never have played for so long or accomplished all that I have without the unwavering love and support from my wife, Heather, our three sons, Ryan, Lucas, and Mason, and my parents.

There is decency in those words, and perhaps an outstretched hand.

And I believe they are his own words, not those of a publicist or sports agent. After all, they don't bother to thank the Flames organization that gave up on him.

I don't know what to say Marty, and I know I am not alone when it comes to having mixed emotions tonight, but I do know it's unfair to ignore 14 years of excellence and exceedingly fond memories all because of a few months of rancor.

You succeeded in your sport because you are what you Francophones would refer to as A une fougueuse -- a feisty one -- and for that I am grateful.

Merci pour les souvenirs.


Martin St. Louis' time with the Tampa Bay Lightning included helping the team win the Stanley Cup in 2004.
ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Snubs

With the Stanley Cup Finals having ended a couple weeks ago, I thought my days of opining about hockey were pretty much over until the next season and post-season roll around.

But it turns out that the key words in that sentence were "pretty much," for this year's Hall of Fame class was announced on Monday and I have some beefs to bellyache about.

To be sure, each of the people who made it in does deserve to be there. However, some of them could have waited another year or two in favor of other players who are just as deserving and have been waiting longer.

The #1 person who in my opinion absolutely should have waited is noted cheap shot artist Chris Pronger. He was indeed one of the better defensemen to ever play the game, but he spent a large part of his career either in or on the wrong side of the gray area and was suspended eight times by the NHL. So why does he get enshrined in his first year of eligibility while these other guys have to wait?


Dave Andreychuk
I won't deny that I have a rooting interest where Andreychuk is concerned, for he captained my Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004 and I have met both him and his father (and can attest that they are among the nicest people you could ever meet). Nonetheless, the hockey facts speak for themselves and Dave Andreychuk should have been enshrined in the HOF well before now.

Throughout history, approximately 5,900 people have played in the NHL. Only 42 of them (seven-tenths of one percent) have scored 500 goals, and only 18 (three-tenths of one percent) have scored 600. Dave Andreychuk scored 640 over the course of his career. He scored more power play goals than anyone else who has ever laced up a pair of skates. He is the only member of "The 600 Club" not in the HOF -- other than Teemu Selanne, who just retired and therefore won't be eligible until 2017.

Hockey people love to sing the praises of leadership and character, and Andreychuk possesses both of those qualities in abundance: Prior to the 2001-02 season -- when he was late in his career, had yet to win the Cup, and was an unrestricted free agent -- he surprised everybody by signing not with a Cup contender but with the downtrodden Lightning, for the express purpose of turning around the team's culture and making it a winner... When it became clear they weren't going to qualify for the playoffs that season, he turned down an offer from management to trade him to a contender, insisting that his work with the Bolts was not yet done... The following year, head coach John Tortorella made Andreychuck the team captain and the Bolts proceeded to make the playoffs for the first time in seven years, advancing beyond the first round for the first time ever... Then, the year after that, they won the Stanley Cup with Andreychuk, 40 years old at the time, contributing 14 points during their playoff run.

He has been eligible for the HOF for six years now and is still awaiting the call. The only conceivable reason someone might give for this snub is that his numbers are not as impressive considering he played the sixth most games in history; but even that claim is demonstrably bogus, for of the five people in front of him on the "games played" list, only two have more goals, and all four of the five who are eligible for the HOF are in it.

Also, if you look at Andreychuk's per game numbers, they are every bit as compelling as those of people who have long since been enshrined -- for example, his .390 goals per game is right in line with Mark Messier's .395, and is arguably even more impressive than Messier's when you consider that Messier spent much of his career surrounded by the best supporting cast(s) in hockey history.


Mark Recchi
Recchi is the only other unenshrined player in the top six of the "games played" list, and his exclusion is also mystifying.

With an NHL career that started in 1988 and ended in 2011, he has the distinction of having played in four different decades and being the last player to retire who was active in the 1980's. He averaged almost a point a game across the course of 1,652 career games. He is one of only ten players to win the Cup with three different franchises, and one of only eight to win it in three different decades. In 2009 he became the oldest player to have five assists in a single game, and in 2011 he became the oldest player to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Recchi and Pronger both became eligible this year. Can someone please explain to me why the former is made to wait while the latter is not?


Sergei Makarov
A case can be made that Sergei Makarov belongs ahead of both Andreychuk and Recchi on the snubbed list.

One-third of the vaunted KLM Line from the Soviet National Team that dominated the world in the 1980's, Makarov left an imprint on the game of hockey like few others before or since... With him on the roster, the team never failed to medal in an international tournament (Olympics, World Championships, and World Junior Championships) and compiled a total haul of thirteen gold medals, three silver, and three bronze... He piled up 1.18 points per game in international play from 1978 to 1991, and 1.37 per game while playing for the Soviet Championship League's Traktor Chelyabinsk and CSKA Moscow from 1976 to 1989.

Makarov was 31 years old when the USSR, in its waning days, finally allowed its hockey professionals to come play in the NHL. In his "rookie" year with the Calgary Flames he accounted for 86 points while posting a 25.9% shooting percentage that topped the NHL, besting even Mr. Gretzky and Mr. Lemieux. After awarding him the can't-deny-him Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year, the NHL changed its guidelines by instituting the so-called "Makarov Rule" that limits the trophy's eligibility to players who are younger than 26. In the end, Makarov played six seasons in the NHL (four for Calgary and two for San Jose) from 1989 through 1995, and after sitting out 1995-96, an attempted comeback with Dallas was aborted after four games. He then retired at the age of 39.

He has been eligible for the HOF for a decade and a half, and there is absolutely no excuse for the selection committee continuing to keep him on the outside. After all, the shrine for which they work is not called the NHL Hall of Fame or North American Hall of Fame -- it is the Hockey Hall of Fame.


Alexander Mogilny
Speaking of Russians getting snubbed, why is Alexander Mogilny still waiting to get the call?

After being drafted by Buffalo with the 89th overall selection in the entry draft, he defected to the United States in 1989, chose uniform number 89 (of course), and played in 65 games for the Sabres during his rookie season of 1989-90... He scored 15 goals that first season, followed by 30- and 39-goal outputs the next two... Then, in his fourth year playing over here, he exploded with 76 goals in the 1992-93 season. In the 22 years since then, no player has managed to reach the 70-goal mark and only three (Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, and Steven Stamkos) have managed to reach 60.

Although he was traded to Vancouver after just five seasons in Buffalo, Mogilny still ranks as the thirteenth-highest points producer in Sabres' history, and keep in mind that that history includes Pat LaFontaine, Thomas Vanek, Dale Hawerchuk, Craig Ramsay, Phil Housley, the afore-mentioned Dave Andreychuk, and the entire French Connection Line.

In the end, Mogilny played 16 seasons in the NHL and averaged more than a point per game. He won the Stanley Cup in 2000 and Lady Byng Trophy in 2003. In addition, he won an Olympic gold in 1988 and a World Championship gold in 1989. Plus, Mats Sundin described him as the best player he ever played with, while Pat Quinn described him as the most talented player he ever coached.

He has been eligible for the HOF for six years. Induct him already!


Obviously, I am annoyed that these four players don't already have their places in that handsome old building at the corner of Front and Yonge Streets in Toronto. If they still don't have their places at this time next year, I will be even more annoyed!