Unsheathed Sabres

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Last Friday night the Sabres matched up with their cross-border rivals infamous for their blue Maple leaf logo. These teams, regardless of their records,seem to bring forth such disdain for the other. From the moment the Maple Leafs walked into the stadium a bitter intensity covered the ice like cirro-stratus clouds cover Buffalo throughout the winter threatening snowstorms.

The Maple Leaf fans threatened to take over the entire stadium. Many of them probably traveled fewer than the eighty miles it takes me to trek from Rochester to every home game. Kessel, Bozak, Phaneuf jersey’s were as prevalent as Moulson, Miller, Vanek, Ennis jersey’s that night. Strangely a Karlsson jersey made it into the game and an un-named LA Kings jersey happened to make it onto the jumbo-tron. How peculiar.

My seats against the back wall in the 300’s had plenty of Leaf fans within spitting distance. All-in-all the Canadian fans occupied about fourty percent of the stadium based on the eye test. The fans kept the tight, heavy hitting game congenial. The same was not true for the players on the ice.

From the onset of the puck drop the players kept a hard, physical, checking game intact. The named players for the Sabres got their shot at Toronto first. Moulson-Ennis-Stafford, Hodgson-Reinhart-Gionta, Foligno-Mitchell-Stewart almost all of them are expected to make the opening day roster while Flynn-Schaller-McCormick got action this night; only McCormick of them is expected to make the opening day roster. Reinhart, Foligno, Mitchell, Flynn, and Schaller were out to prove their meddle. For defense Pysyk was out (inj) so McCabe saw time with Myers. Weber with Ristolainen, and Zadurov with Meszaros.

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The players were physically inept for the first period. Not only were they continually knocked off pucks, they also couldn’t knock any Toronto player off the puck either. Their hits were brushed aside like silly thoughts to Randy Carlyle’s genius. Toronto kept possession for much of the first, admittedly in their two thirds of the rink; managing only six shots on goal. All three goals of theirs in the first came from Buffalo’s focus on hitting the player rather than going after the puck.

Chris Stewart was the only Sabre to respond in kind to Toronto’s hard-hitting ways as the first period unfolded. Stripping the puck, being in the face of every Maple Leaf jersey he saw (only the glass prevented him from cross-checking Toronto fans in the first two rows), and scoring two goals to Toronto’s three. The rest of the Sabres tried too hard to be physical at the cost of playing sound hockey. Their pass-heavy plan failed due to its inconsistent passing and lack of fluid skating. They were left vulnerable to Toronto’s pounding. Many a times a Sabre received the puck while standing still. Buffalo was slow, passed slow, hit slow, skated slow for the first twenty minutes. Only Stewart’s line (Foligno, Mitchell) kept pace with the enemy.

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Something happened after the first intermission. Buffalo, blue and beaten after twenty minutes which must have seemed like its own sixty minute game, emerged from the dressing room blue and golden. Physical and open became their style of play. They dictated the tone of the remaining fourty minutes. Delivering hits, playing with intensity and speed, the game became a true competition of grit and prowess. Neuvirth, Weber, and the rest of the defense not named Myers or McCabe were the only obstacles preventing the Sabres from imminent victory. Neuvirth was personally responsible for at least two of Toronto’s six goals. He never got high to stop those shots – congrats Toronto for proper scouting. Toronto shot high on him all night converting twenty seven percent of the time. At least four of the six goals were high. Weber on the other hand was not just slow but lacked eyes on a developing play. He looked as lost as a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car along the 90. Like that deer, he had no reason for being on the ice being responsible personally for two of the oncoming cars’ goals. His pairing mate Zadurov just didn’t back him up nor adjust to meet Weber’s inefficiencies. Toronto skated in with ease while those two were drawing blanks for eyes forgetting if they were deer or hockey players.

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Since I am focusing on D-men this season Meszaros, whom pleases me as a signing, and Ristolainen had their own miscues. They were as porous as sand. Sure they kept Toronto to twelve shots in two periods but they allowed the Leafs to get far too close to Neuvirth for anything but a goal. Those four D-men were catalysts for Toronto’s twenty-seven percent shot ratio, four percent higher than the feared and dangerous Penguins or Capitals PP% for all of last season.

Highlighting the defense, the combination of Myers-McCabe were on fire! From the get-go they were melting the ice. Their physical play, their focus on stealing the puck, their speed to play defense from an offensive position on the ice was a major catalyst in Stewart and Mitchell having a prominent role in the first period. Kudos to Foligno for being the anchor-weight on that line! Those two players (Myers-McCabe) kept the Sabres as close to winning as possible. Myers even managed to demonstrate a physical intensity. In the third period after a cheap shot against him while in the corner he got into a scrum. Though his attempt at a fight lasted only five seconds before he fell over, he Carrick through their gloves down and fought. Officially his attempt at a fight was ruled as a double minor for roughing.

All-in-all the Sabres showed their grit and prowess to attack in a physical game while trailing. As there are expected only three forward positions open for the regular season according to Bill Hoppe of BuffaloHockeyBeat.com. Mitchell, after Friday’s performance, is a strong contender for one of them. In my view Dalpe made a strong case for inclusion into the roster based upon last Tuesday’s game. The test gets tougher with tonight’s tilt in Toronto (try saying this sentence three times fast). Only Reinhart, who’s presence has been questionable on the ice despite knowing he is in the lineup, of the nine seen as competing for the last three forward positions will not be facing Toronto in Toronto. Defenders Bagnall, Petrecki, and Strachan, will get in on the pre-season play and opening day roster availability. The defensive spots are harder to acquire. Weber, who is expected to play, may be making a roster spot easier to acquire.

Side note: On the physical violence of Friday’s game – I saw nothing over-the-line from either side. None of the three official fights (and certainly not Myers’ attempt at a fight) appeared to be staged nor did any appear to be a scrub VS a star. Even the McCormick-Phaneuf non-fight was not a scrub VS star as Phaneuf was taking liberties with some line-mates of McCormick and with McCormick himself. The hits, ‘finished-checks’, and overall physicality of the game did not appear beyond the context of the game itself. Neither team allowed for cheap shots. Those shots that did occur either the players or the refs took appropriate actions. Friday’s match was a testament to how refs should handle the more physically dominating games – be them in an open or closed system. The refs took immediate action to cheap shots often assessing penalties, players themselves did their best to quell cheap-shots immediately. My first star of the game goes to every referee on the ice that night!

P.S. I am a proponent of fighting in the NHL but only when it occurs in the context of the game and especially when liberties are taken against any players. Players should be able to defend themselves appropriately, team-mates should be able to stand-up for one another while playing hockey. Emphasis on being able to play the game of hockey.

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Sabres’ Golden Future

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The Sabres won their first game already and are .500. Too bad its the pre-season where those kind of stats are irrelevant to the playoffs. Fortunately it’s the preseason and those things matter for fans and management alike. So the Sabres finished in last place a season ago but that was a prior season when Tim Murray was so painfully sick he up-chucked nearly the entire roster. Murray’s purge led to his subsequent binge of draft picks and free agent signings. Those acts make for an exciting pre-season for fans, management, people, and probably players alike!

After watching a practice on Saturday and attending their win versus Carolina last night a great deal of my focus this season will be on the defense. The defense will be the litmus test for subsequent seasons, in my opinion. The Sabres have a burgeoning defense. Fan favorite Myers, soon to be if not already a favorite Gorges (if for nothing else than spurning Toronto and CHOOSING to play in Buffalo), and of course young twin towers in Ristolainen and Zadurov. The later is perhaps a couple years in the works but the best promise according to many scouts. My favorite defender though is Mark Pysyk. Aside from good looks and charm – never having met him – he is my player to watch. He has the ability to shut down the opposition which he demonstrated in his time with both the Sabres last season as well as the Amerks.

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He has a skill I highly value in my defensemen (in any sport); the ability to play offense while on defense and defense while on offense. Some may liken it to transitioning simultaneously from defense to offense or from offense to defense but it’s actually a more subtle skill though comparable. If one is familiar with world football think gay friendly Philip Lahm of Deutschland. Much like Lahm I believe Pysyk to be the teams keystone on defense. He will be able to transition this latent ice-capped volcano to erupt like Mount St. Helens.

Pysyk suffered an upper-body injury in the first minute of play during Tuesday nights contest against the mighty Hurricanes. As a result Nolan adjusted all night his defense pairings. As a whole the defense did not use their space well nor did they transition from one side of the rink to the other with much vigor. Their play was admirable marked by highlights from none other than Tyler Myers. His defense is noticeably better already. He starred in both the open game more akin to his skill set as well as the closed game corresponding to the mentality of the Sabres. Myers allowed his body to get some work in! Meszaros’s highlights are mentioned here. He is a player I am incredibly happy we signed. I have liked his play since he first came into the league despite him being a Flyer for a few seasons. I firmly believe Meszaros will do so well for us and us for him!

With all this defense talk my star of the game is a forward, shockingly. It came out of nowhere and surprised you just like Zac Dalpe did to me Tuesday night. At practice on Saturday he wasn’t even on my radar in Group A. Overshadowed by the likes of Pysyk, Reinhart, Ristolainen, Zadorov, and by promising players in Carrier and Samuels-Thomas (look for them to shine wherever they play!!!), was Dalpe. Only drills were had in practice. Come game time Tuesday night he was the one player I couldn’t help but observe. Speed abound he had while being everywhere on the ice.

At 24 yrs old 6’1″ 195lbs he wasn’t doling out hits nor did he shy away from them either. He used his body as needed to strip the puck (my kind of player). He had the best pace of all the players on the ice including his former franchise in Carolina. I couldn’t help but be astonished with his positional play. Offense went to defense which turned to offense with each twist and turn of his sound frame. All I saw was #20 skating everywhere. Only when he was on the bench and not moving was there a name with that number – Dalpe. Never had I heard of him, impressive he was though.

No doubt playing against former friends aided his drive. Coach Nolan though gave him plenty of respect to prove himself. Zac played a minute and a half on both the PP as well as the PK – he shone on the PK in the first period. Nolan rewarded with the second most ice time by a forward despite Dalpe winning only 33% of his faceoffs. Clearly that is a skill he’ll have to work on.  He was at 45.9% last year in 55 games with the inept Vancouver Canucks.

While researching for this article I found out his history. He’s a native of Paris, ON. He played last season with Vancouver, his childhood team. Zac signed with Buffalo in a one year deal over the summer. I have already mentioned his speed, like Speedy Gonzalez.

31506In addition he has energy, shoots well, passes well, and is very versatile. He can play center or on the wing – the Sabres might require him on the wing despite performing well with Stewart. The critical side has him not being assertive (physical contact) while his defense needs some polishing. Even as he is I forsee him playing on either the 3rd (most likely) or the 2nd line and garnering short-handed goals. The Sabres could use some PK threats (a lost thought in hockey). He has the skills and qualities I look for in a player. I hope he performs well-enough for a contract extension as I see him being a talent. Be it in Buffalo or my hometown Rochester – where he purchased his truck (9:40 mark) – the waves of barley atop his head, the two spheres of a calm night’s sky below those golden stalks will be a heart-warming sight come game time.

 

 

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Rock The Meh…

The Gays Weigh in on the Caps’ Winter Classic Fashion Statement

Far be it from us to perpetuate any more stereotypes about gay men and fashion… Wait, who are we kidding? You’ve seen us trawl the concourses at Verizon and know our look. Fashion for us is basically cargo pants, hoodies and clean Caps jerseys.

New York Fashion Week was earlier this month, but Caps Fashion Day was yesterday. We were giddy with anticipation for the Winter Classic uni debut. How giddy?

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And thanks to that killer scoop by RMNB, we got an early look at the design ahead of the official unveiling. Our initial reactions were blasé. But over the years, we’ve learned to not put too much weight behind our first impressions. As the (true) story goes, upon our first meeting back in the 90s (when Bill Clinton meant presidential leadership and a young Jerry Seinfeld was teaching America how to laugh again), Doug thought Craig was an insufferable prick, and Craig’s first take on Doug was that he was a smokin’ hot ginger.

OK, first impressions can be illuminating…but we digress, we’re here to talk fashion.

Everyone else seems to have lobbed in their opinions already: here, (video), here, and here. Oh, and here, here, here (and here), here, here, a little here, here, here (and again here and pix), and some more here (and again here, herehere, hereherehere.

What’s missing? Gays. We thought the best way for us to review the WC unis was in a point-counterpoint manner. That will help yield honest opinions – free from confirmation bias, offer spontaneity, some ha-has and allow Craig to say, “Doug, you ignorant slut!”  So let’s have at it:

Hot Takes: 

Craig: Let’s be honest, neither of us have the bona fides to talk fashion. On our best days we look like unmade beds. with mismatched sheets. Neither of us watch any of the fashion reality shows: Project Runway (is that still on?) or Say Yes to the Mess or whatever. God, what mind-numbing crap that is, even by reality TV standards. Any time we have to devote to reality TV is taken up by Deadliest Catch (#TeamNorthwestern) and Washington Capitals hockey.

I really was ready to open my wallet to drop some shekels on a new jersey and was waiting for the WC release to purchase. The first Caps jersey I ever bought was the CapsPens WC throwback, and it remains my fave. It helps that it sports LAUGHLIN / 18 across the back, too. And it’s already been decided, the next jersey I buy will be emblazoned with MAY / 16.

But here we are, 24 hours after the debut, I’m not convinced I want to buy one, especially at $140 USD. They want to evoke the 1930’s? Really? When I think the 30s, I think economic dislocation, disease, ruthless dictators and war. Wait – that’s today’s front page of the Washington Post!

Doug: First, so I can beat you all to the punch, I am perhaps the least fashionable gay man ever. Ever. This will surprise exactly nobody anywhere. My idea of haute couture is wearing my best Champion underwears (#TeamBoxerbriefs) at the breakfast table. (Now clean THAT image from your brain!) I’m more of a hot mess than Gary Busey. If I walk into the alley on Tuesdays, the garbage men try to load me into the truck.

I could go on, by my Joan Rivers Joke Bank account is running low. All this said, I know what I like. Which leaves what I don’t like, which is sort of a specialty of mine. We don’t have time for all the things I don’t like. Ask me sometime, because that question is one of those things that I don’t like. And in the end, I don’t like the Caps’ Winter Classic jerseys. Not Michael-Kors-spitting-up-venom don’t like, but just in the end, don’t like.

The Jersey and Logo:

Craig: I’m not so sure about that “W.” I’ll admit, I like it far better than the curly Nat’s W, but this one looks too plain and says to me that they didn’t want to splurge on an extra font set. I’ll also admit, I didn’t immediately pick up on the Washington Monument stick tap in there. I also like the nod to the DC flag with the three stars. I’m all about DC (except for that statehood nonsense. Until we run ourselves as a proper municipality, I don’t see us worthy of statehood. Personally, I’d gladly trade voting rights for a federal income tax exemption for DC residents). How did this get so political? [Doug: it always gets political with you!]

holtby-607x910Doug: When it hits the ice, believe me, the first thing anyone is going to see – other than Holtby’s hair – is color. But what are we seeing here? Yeah, I get it. The Caps are Red, White and Blue, but do they have to be so dowdy? I know the whole impression is supposed to be old-timey, but all I’m getting here is old. Honestly, that red looks like it should be in a Cialis commercial. The blue? How can you make blue so bleah? Give ‘em this: the didn’t screw up the white.

So all this is supposedly an echo back to Washington hockey players dating to the 30’s. There’s a lot of things we decided we didn’t need to take with us from the thirties. Geez, guys, you had an entire tableau to work with – including those wacky black/blue/gold Eagle things that I love – and you decided to go with overall color and design that says “I’m too tired to do something, I give up”? Hello?

Craig: I think one of the reasons I was so meh at first was the red jersey over the red backdrop used for the photos didn’t provide enough contrast; it blended into the background. It’s starting to grow on me and I’m in like, but still not in love (See above, Re: Doug).

It’s a different shade of red that may take some getting used to. Can someone get us the HEX code, please? And speaking of those pics, is the best possible job in hockey being assigned to a Braden Holtby photo shot? Answer: Yes. Finally, the shoulder stripes? No. More on that below where we talk about the other set of mismatched stripes.

Doug: That “W”. Oh my Gawd. I just can’t.

The Pants:

WC pantsCraig: I like that shade of blue and the “W” and stars is a nice touch. If I bought a pair of those pants, would they make my fat ass look fat? The side stripes are OK, too. I’d like to see this style in a cargo short.

Doug: Looking at these, and that “W”, I begin to understand what it must be like when your four-year-old presents you with her first macaroni art project. “It’s a doggie!” she squeals with delight, and you, not wanting to raise someone you eventually read about on TMZ, praise its beauty and brilliance. But you know, deep down, that doggies don’t have antlers. And looking at these you know, deep down, the Washington Monument is not the Tower of Pisa, twinned, and leaning in on itself as if they are about to collapse. Why do you hate America?

The Socks:

WC StripeyCraig: OK, I never played the game but don’t hockey player guys wrap tape around their socks to… I guess hold them up or something? What’s white tape going to look like spun around calves that already have four white stripes? Answer: Not good. Do they use clear tape? I don’t know – we’ve never played the game – as we’ve been reminded like only a gazillion times.

But the stripes… Add the socks stripes to the shoulder stripes on the jersey and the look is all wrong. Are we trying to hypnotize the Hawks? “You are getting sleeeepy!  You will commit O Zone stick penalties”

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Doug: Stripes on the legs, stripes on the shoulders…what is this, Guys and Dolls? The stripes here and there and everywhere just have too much of a Lao Gai feel for me. Are these being made by Chinese prisoners who are secretly trying to tell us something? I hate to say it, but oldie-timey teams like the Red Wings and the (shudder) Bruins have had plenty o’ stripes in their day. Did they spill out onto their Winter Classic unis? I think not.

The Event: 

Craig: I think these guys summed it up best -

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It’s always nice to see the Commish,Ted and all the brass on one riser. That Lerner guy seems cool, right? But what do we know about base ball? The presser moved along nicely and the staging was mostly OK (says the guy who worked for Mike Deaver). I watched the stream in my office but I’ve already forgotten which client I billed that hour to.

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I’m taking off my PR hat now – what still has me scratching my head is: Just WTF is EPIX? We come from C-SPAN backgrounds so we know all too well about obscure networks buried in the upper reaches and outer limits of the cable dial, but this is one channel I’ve never heard of. Hell, we go into a dead panic when Caps games are on CSN Plus. Despite all the advance notice, at 7:00pm on those game nights we’re cursing like longshoremen as we scroll through the never-ending channel guide, in utter desperation looking for the game feed, fearing we’ll miss Joe B’s opening homily. “Doug! I think it’s on channel 2,000 something! Check that!”

Epix has only have 9.5 million subscribers, which may seem like a lot but there are 103 million cable home nationwide (114 million US homes total) and HBO is seen 30 million. And they’re not on the Comcast/Xfinity in DC so for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t exist. Luckily they have some access scheme for non-subscribers and because they promise ‘unfiltered language,” we’re bound to watch. Let’s be honest, we’ll watch no matter what, even if it aired on the Hallmark Channel and was anchored by Kirk Cameron. Attention Epix Producers: We could make for an ideal featurette segment:  gays + sports = money (it’s in all the papers). You want unfiltered? Did we say longshoremen? We can swear like Prussian artillery officers if that will bring the ratings.

Doug: Let’s let Craig’s rant on EPIX stand as it is. And let us never mention it again.

Finally:

Bless Monument for throwing us a bone and posing this generic Caps player on the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. We’re calling him Jon-Eric Cappe.

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Doug:  I can NOT let this go without mentioning! So here’s this make-believe Caps player, and with that chin cleft? What Cap has ever had a chin like that? I was going to say Alan May, but those were scars. Character scars.

My final take: these are kind of a miss when it comes to design. That said, I’ll be thrilled to watch ANYONE in Caps colors hit the ice January 1st. And…can you hear us NHL?…open skating on the Reflecting Pool would be THE BEST commercial you could ever manufacture.

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Hockey Pages: “Blood On The Ice” by Katriena Knights

I was dubious when I initially heard about Blood on the Ice by Katriena Knights. Sure, it had the attraction of having some gay hockey players in it, but one of the key aspects to the story was that the players were vampires. That worried me. I love a good vampire story, I enjoy the Blood Ties series form Tanya Huff and various Anne Rice novels. But vampires done poorly just frustrates me.

BloodOntheIceBlood on the Ice is a great book. It’s not a typical gay romance by any means. It’s got some amazing hockey sequences. As a vampire novel it met all my needs because these vampires are bound by the usual rules (they don’t, for example, sparkle in the sunlight). It was a book I had a hard time putting down because I needed to know what was going to happen. Overall, it’s one of the best books I’ve reviewed for PuckBuddys.

It all starts innocently enough. Travis Payne, a Chicago Blackhawks forward, is at a bar with his teammates celebrating the win that got them into the Stanley Cup finals. Unfortunately it’s the last regular night of Travis’ life. As he’s leaving the bar, he tries to help a woman being attacked and, while he breaks up the attack, he ends up turned by a vampire.

In this reality, vampires are “out” in society and have been for a few decades. Travis doesn’t die, but ends up in a six-month program to transition him into being a socially acceptable vampire. This includes him leaving the Blackhawks and going into the LVH’s Chicago Cobras if he plans to keep playing hockey.

Travis’ world is shattered. In the transition program he has virtually no contact with the outside world, so he has no idea what happens with the Cup finals. The visitors he gets are few, mostly his agent and reps from the LVH. His family disowns him. But he eventually finds a friend in Marcus Antonius, captain of the Cobras and a vampire since gladiator times. Actually he feels more than just friendship for Marc, he feels an attraction that he’s usually reserved for women.

Katriena excellently maneuvers her way through all the various plot lines perfectly. She deals with Travis’ transition into vampire without bogging the reader down in too much exposition, while also making sure we know everything we need to. His transition runs from funny to sad to hot and back again many times in the book.

She also establishes the LVH in great detail, again without slowing things down. It’s modeled after the original six, but the play is much more brutal and bloody because the players are already dead. To help make sure they don’t “die” again, no one plays in the LVH with a stick that has wood in it. Among my favorite scenes in the book is the game between Chicago and the Detroit Damnation, especially Travis’ third period goal.

The relationship built between Travis and Marc is great. As I mentioned this isn’t a typical romance. While Marc falls for Travis the first time he see his new teammate, he doesn’t want to impose himself on the new vampire. Watching these two grow from mentor/mentee to friends and teammates and on to a more romantic relationship made for good reading—and some hot reading occasionally, too. Is it a monogamous love that lasts forever (truly forever in their case)? Probably not in any traditional sense but they do make a pretty cool couple.

If you’ve been at all into the books I’ve reviewed on PuckBuddys, definitely take the plunge on this one for something fun, cool and different.

Interview with Katriena Knights

Continue reading

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Hockey Pages: “The Eloquent Jock” and “Hiding In Plain Sight” by Cassandra Carr

PuckBuddys introduced readers to Cassandra Carr last August with her book See the Light, which followed the budding romance between an Olympic hockey player and one of his coaches.

An avid hockey fan, it’s not surprising that Carr has more hockey romance available with a touching, and hot, short story in the new Campus Cravings anthology, which is just out this week, as well as a See the Light sequel called Hiding in Plain Sight. Before catching up with Cassandra, here’s a review of her two new gay hockey offerings.

CampusCravingsCoverThe Eloquent Jock, the short story in Campus Cravings, is a great coming out story meshed with an angsty romance. Brendan (named in honor of Brendan Burke) is a college hockey player whose senior-year work-study assignment is to be a TA to Scott, a creative writing professor.

Sparks fly with these two from their first meeting. However, Brendan is out to no one. Scott, meanwhile, is well aware of the trouble he could get in for hooking up with a student, especially one working for him. The point of view shifts scene to scene so we’re able to get Brendan and Scott’s internal dialogue and that’s great stuff as they debate how much they want the other with the consequences that are possible.

I loved the push and pull between these characters as they maneuver around each other—getting super close, pulling away, apologizing and doing it over again. There’s just the right amount of frustration on the page, and you end of feeling for both men. I’m not going to spoil the end of the story, but suffice to say the two have some sizzling hot times as the story progresses (their time in the park was particularly hot) and their ultimate solution is a good one.

HidingInPlainSightCoverIn Hiding in Plain Sight, we find an unlikely main character in Vlad. Vlad is the Russian player who hurled slurs at the U.S. hockey team in See the Light. Now he’s back in the U.S. and playing for Pittsburgh. It hasn’t been quite the same for him since the Olympics because no one can understand why he did what he did. After Vald goes into a Pittsburgh gay sports bar and is recognized by Joe, a former Special Ops solider, both men’s lives end up on a new path.

You might’ve guessed it, Vlad’s gay and no one knows. He’s scared what the Russian mafia might do to his family if he comes out, even though he lives and plays in the U.S. now. For Joe, he’s been out a long time and while he’s attracted to Vlad, he’s not sure he wants to start anything more than a friendship with someone so deep in the closet.

Cassandra weaves a great story here as Joe slowly gets Vlad to open up to him about what happened at the Olympics and why he’s so scared even in this age of You Can Play. Getting Vlad out of his shell is compelling reading. He’s a complex character with a lot on his mind, not the least of which is that he finds Joe to be hot, and possibly boyfriend material. Watching them go from uneasy friends to far more than that is also some of the sweetest—and hottest—reading around this summer.

It was nice that Cassandra dropped in cameos from Jason and Patrick from See the Light. They get to play the mentor role here to very nice effect.

* * *

Cassandra CarrI recently got to chat with Cassandra about both of these new stories.

JA: “The Eloquent Jock” is dedicated to the late Brendan Burke. What’s the story behind this story?

CC: Brendan, the hockey player, was named after Brendan Burke. I’ve followed the You Can Play project since its inception and wanted to highlight it. I’ve done so in pretty much every m/m hockey story I’ve done so far. The NHL has always been a staunch supporter of the You Can Play project, and I hope that someday gay men can feel comfortable to be themselves in the league without fear of repercussions.

JA: Something I liked a lot in this story was that both Scott and Brendan want the other, but are both scared of the consequences. What was it like to write so much romance and angst in the same scenes?

CC: A challenge, certainly. I can’t even imagine what it would be like in their situation. Both have so much to lose, and I wanted to convey that as best I could. I hope I succeeded!

JA: You conveyed it perfectly, I think.

How real world do you think this story is in terms of how Brendan and Scott are received by the other characters in the story? Were you looking to reflect now or a future?  

CC: I think it can be like that. I hope it can be like that. I would like to think that the hockey world is a little more accepting of gay men and women, they certainly seem to be with their support (at least the NHL’s) of the You Can Play project. I’ve seen a lot of college teams showing similar support.

JA: Meanwhile, with Hiding In Plain Sight, did you always see Vlad being the hook for See The Light’s sequel? What was the inspiration for the rest of Vlad’s story and him meeting up with Joe?

CC: When I wrote See the Light, Vlad was a means to an end. But then, when I started thinking about book two, I thought it would be interesting to turn things around and make him a closeted gay man. From there the title, Hiding In Plain Sight, seemed obvious. I wanted to show the struggle of a man coming to terms to his sexuality, and to bring to the forefront the prejudice gay men in Russia are facing.

JA: Is Plain Sight more Vlad’s story or Joe’s? They both go through a fair bit over the course of the story.

CC: I’d say it’s more Vlad’s story than Joe’s. I think he has the larger character makeover/transformation than Joe. After all, Joe already knows he’s gay, he’s got some experience. Yes, his life has fallen apart since his accident, but at least he knows who he is. Vlad has to make the bigger life change.

JA: What’s your favorite part of Plain Sight?

CC: When Vlad comes out right at the end, with Joey backing him up. Oh, and I also like the part where he tells him teammates and Joey is there to back him up then too. The whole “Yeah, my boyfriend is a badass” thing that Vlad thinks is kind of funny considering he’s a hockey player.

JA: What message do you want people to come away with when they’re done with the book?

CC: That sometimes figuring out who you are isn’t a catastrophic thing. Sometimes it’s okay.

JA: And, lastly, what’s coming up for you? Do you expect another installment in the Safe Harbor series? Or some other m/m hockey in another story?

CC: I may do another installment in the Safe Harbor series. I don’t have time right now, but maybe in 2015. I do have a continuation of The Eloquent Jock coming out this holiday season. It’s called The Key.

I will also be doing a continuation of the m/f hockey novella I released called Scorin’ on the Fourth of July. I’d like to continue the story of Mikael and Terri. Both of those stories are novellas in my Buffalo Storm m/f hockey series. After that, I’m not sure, but I also have a m/m military story coming out in a bundle titled Unconditional Surrender. It releases on October 13th. I expect to release more m/m stories next year, too.

Thanks for having me! I appreciate it and I hope everyone likes the stories!

Jeff’s regular PuckBuddys beat includes the Red Wings and reviewing fiction that features gay hockey players. In addition, he’s the author of the Hat Trick series, which chronicles the romance of Simon & Alex, two hockey players who fell in love during high school. Hat Trick 2: Playing the Rebound was published in July and he’s at work on the third installment. You can follow him on Twitter at @hockeyguynyc.

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Get Your Kicks in 406

Caps Tickets For Sale At STH Prices

The Caps are hosting an open house Tuesday night, looking to unload available tickets for the upcoming season. Cool? Yes – but have we got a deal for you! Our STH pal will be away from DC all year (with possible time off for good behavior) and is unable to attend games this season. We’ll take in a dozen tilts but plenty more are up for grabs, and we’re helping our pal unload the remaining games at his STH cost. Great seats: Section 406, Row H, Seats 3&4. Details are below. Interested? Email or hit us up on Twitter.

 

*Winter Classic not included (as part of his plea bargain).

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A Capital Idea Whose Time Has Come…Again

Paul Spreiregen’s ice skates aren’t as sharp as they were 50 years ago. But it’s a good thing he is. Had he got his way fifty years ago, the NHL’s 2015 Winter Classic could have been staged on the National Mall Reflecting Pool.

Lincoln Reflecting pool iced over

Millions of hockey fans the world over would have watched the Capitals and the Blackhawks battle it out in the middle of one of America’s most iconic landscapes; a game played literally at Lincoln’s feet.

But perhaps, his idea still has some life left in it.

An Idea Takes Flight

Back in 1964, Spreiregen was an up-and-coming architect working in Washington DC. He hadn’t yet helped revitalize downtown’s languishing core, designed the striking glass-and-green IntelSat headquarters in Northwest DC (“You’ve got to see it through the trees!” he proclaims), or authored his landmark book “The Architecture of Towns and Cities.”

WaPo Pool cost 3MBut 50 years ago this summer, Spreiregen and his colleague Louis Justement had a genius idea. Noticing that visitors to DC dropped off precipitously during Winter, Spreiregen offered a proposal as radical as it was simple: freeze the Reflecting Pool on the Mall for season-round ice skating and hockey.

The idea caught fire. Secretary of the Interior Steward Udall loved it, as did Senator Frank Church, a close political ally of President Johnson.

The Administration held a sweltering July press conference at the base of the Lincoln Monument, the long pool extending into the background, with Spreiregen holding up a pair of authentic Dutch long distance ice skates…the kind you might imagine Hans Brinker sporting.

Just think, they said, what this could look like in just six months.

For the then relatively low price of $3 to 4 million dollars (about $25-35 million today). refrigerator coils would freeze the entire Reflecting Pool for the duration of the winter season. That’s an 8 1/2 acre ice rink – enough area for ice skating, curling, and upward of 7 hockey rinks – all in the heart of the National Mall.

Skating on the Reflecting Pool, 1922 (Library of Congress)

Skating on the Reflecting Pool, 1922 (Library of Congress)

Everyone was on board it seemed, until the bureaucrats got involved. In the time-honed Washington tactic of  ‘delay until dead’, Spreiregen’s proposal foundered and eventually melted away.

But Spreiregen is still very much around, and so is his idea. And this time around, with Washington preparing to become the largest stage in the NHL calendar hosting the 2015 Winter Classic, it just might be an idea whose time has come…again.

Lessons Learned

Spreiregen drawing

Paul Spreiregen, still at work (Photo: Doug Johnson)

“There’s an old joke,” Spreiregen says, speaking of one of his first DC projects. “Doctors bury their mistakes. Architects plant vines.”

Spreiregen is sharing lessons he’s learned over his 50+ year career, seated in the shade of his outdoor porch high above his Glover Park home. He’s funny and engaging, and the conversation sweeps between urban design, music, the transformative uses of buildings, Boston’s Fenway, and the biology of wolves.

“Why didn’t it happen?” he asks of the Reflecting Pool rink that never was. “That’s just one of those classic Washington stories,” he says, and laughs.

In the early 1960’s, as Washington filled with the boundless New Frontier energy of the Kennedy administration, Spreiregen began to design buildings, champion the re-imagining of urban spaces, and meet like-minded DC movers and shakers. One of them was Louis Justement, “an excellent architect” and designer of, among other things, Sibley Hospital.

“Justement was trying to build a new organization of urban planners, and asked me if I’d submit an article to his new journal,” he says. “I said ‘Sure, what on?’ He said ‘Anything you want.'” So I had this idea, and the rest is history.”

An MIT graduate and lifelong New Englander, Spreiregen grew up playing in winter’s snow and ice. “You ever notice people on a ski slope? Even if the weather’s rotten, everybody’s smiling.”

Lincold old skating BW 4The Washington winter of 1960, his first one since moving from his Boston home, was particularly cold. “Everything froze, including the Reflecting Pool, and people went skating on it. Duh,” he chuckles.

Everyone agreed the idea was as natural as it was obvious. “It just caught fire. It was national news. Garfield Kass (a Washington philanthropist) offered seed money, and the Washington Post endorsed the idea. They were quite complimentary.”

Quickly the idea to turn the Reflecting Pool into a national wintertime attraction rocketed up Washington local and federal bureaucracies. Secretary Udall staged a major news conference in July – the one Spreiregen attended with his wooden Dutch skates.

Committee Named

“I said ‘If we were standing here 100 years ago, we’d be up to our needs in mud, because 100 years ago, this was a swamp. This pool was built by people of vision.’ That’s all this was. Freezing the Reflecting Pool in winter is only a minor engineering and financial problem. This was just an issue of vision.”

Spreiregen skates

Spreiregen’s skates (Photo: Doug Johnson)

Many in the government agreed, except for an obscure collection of bureaucrats who saw themselves as holding the keys to the Mall.

“Udall instructed the Interior department to do a feasibility study, which I agreed with,” recounts Spreiregen. “I met the park service staff, and happened to point out that I liked that the Mall then had tennis courts so locals and visitors could play.” (From 1940 to 1972 there were ten very popular tennis courts between 3rd and 4th streets, which were ultimately closed to make room for the National Gallery’s East Wing.)

“I said, you want people doing things outside, just having fun, but they sort of sniffed and said ‘We really don’t like that kind of thing.’  They wanted pristine lawns, absent of people. How times have changed,” he said.

When he heard that the study would take a year, Spreiregen knew that the fate of his proposal was sealed. “Here’s the lesson: delay equals death. They didn’t like it, and they killed it with delay.” Sure enough, by 1965 few remembered his idea. The bureaucracy had moved on, leaving his hopes behind.

“I had this drawing for the article, grey skies and landscape, and then all these little colorful dots of people playing on the Mall. It was like a Bruegel painting.”

Ice Skating on Washington DC's Reflecting Pool

In this town, there’s nothing so old as yesterday’s hot story. Both Washington and Spreiregen moved on. He joined the Downtown Progress Association and helped the city’s center again become vital and filled with people.

His idea might have just evaporated as well, were it not for a short letter to the Washington Post, published on May 13, 2011. It concluded: “building a rink nevertheless remains a most compelling idea that awaits a fortuitous moment in our city’s evolution.”

And now, with the Winter Classic just six months away, that moment may be at hand.

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Posted in Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Capitals, Winter Classic 2015 | Tagged , , | 4 Comments