Thanks for nothin’, NHL

Yesterday I would have loved to have watched the All-Star game. What’s not to love about a 12-to-11 blowout that was settled in the shootout? The only problem was, the game was on VS.

VS, aka Versus. You know, that channel that has the national broadcast rights to the National Hockey League here in the U.S. of A. As far back as I can remember during my years of following this sport, the NHL All-Star game has been televised on NBC. Free TV, not cable.

But this year, the League–despite its hype and high ratings of the Winter Classic–felt that the annual game made up of the best hockey players in the world would best be served on a cable TV station that many people in the U.S. don’t get.

Even the NHL circa-1990, with their caveman-like ways of yore, were smart enough not to bury the All-Star game on cable. At the time, their national broadcast partner in the United States was SportsChannel, which was not carried in many regions. But the All-Star Game, thankfully, was on NBC. It usually got piss-poor ratings, but it was the one hockey game that anyone in the U.S. could see.

So, I have to wonder, what gives? With “The NHL on NBC” having a “Game of the Week” each Sunday–as well as games three through seven of the Stanley Cup Finals–you’d think the freakin’ All-Star Game would have been a killer time-slot filler. Sadly, that was not the case.

Now, don’t get me wrong–I can get Versus in my area. For the past six years, I subscribed to ComCast Cable. ComCast owns Versus, and is trying to grow it to become a competitor for ESPN; hence Versus was part of even ComCast’s most basic of channel lineups. As in, you always got it, and for no additional cost.

Since moving last June, I decided that I was damn tired of ComCast’s overpriced cable. Sure, it was good, but is it eighty dollars a month good? My girlfriend Shellie previously subscribed to Dish Network, and I was easily swayed, as we could get most of the channels we wanted for $50 a month.

Most of the channels. Guess what channel is not included.

Yep, that one. A basic subscription to Dish Network would cost $40/month. For $10 more, Shellie can get all of her Animal Planet-type channels, and I would get ComCast SportsNet Chicago–which makes me ask, just how many “sports channels” does ComCast own? But CSN is a necessity to me, since they televise most of the Chicago Blackhawks games. But paying $60 a month (instead of $50) just to get Versus, seems like a waste of money.

Here’s why Versus *is* a waste of money if you are not a ComCast Cable subscriber. Versus shows two games a week, usually involving one or more of the following teams per game: the New York Rangers, the New Jersey Devils, the Detroit Red Wings, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Washington Capitals and/or the Buffalo Sabres. For $10 a month, you can get your fill of the Patrick Division, and then some. But you’ll never get to see, say, the Phoenix Coyotes take on the San Jose Sharks.

After some thought, I decided–with urging from Shellie–to take the extra $10 that I’d be spending each month for Versus and apply it to the Center Ice package.

OMG! Now, instead of seeing two games per week, I can see all the games *except* the two that are on Versus. Because unbeknown to Versus, hockey games occur on Tuesdays through Sundays too. Either Versus does not know that “hockey happens” seven days a week, or they’re too busy televising quail hunting or bull riding or swamp boat racing.

Except that, yesterday Versus put aside their bull riding and televised the All-Star Game instead. Damn.

Canadians are lucky that they don’t have to put up with this.

My 2nd article in Beckett Hockey

Beckett Hockey #209My geek joy continues! This month, my second article for Beckett Hockey Magazine was published.

Entitled Pro Set Story, it is a retro review of the 1990-91 Pro Set Hockey Set, as well as a short overview of the Pro Set Company. The article appears on pages 20-22 of issue 209, which just came out last week. Continue reading “My 2nd article in Beckett Hockey”

I voted today

No, I did not vote for the next President of the United States…that happens next month.

Instead, I (an American, go figure) voted for what I thought should be the new theme for “Hockey Night in Canada”.

Personally, I liked Canadian Gold by Colin Oberst better than the other finalist. Have a listen…

Now, you’re probably wondering why an American would care about this. Back in 1989, my family got a satellite dish–one of those big ones that are five feet in diameter. Not only could I watch a lot more hockey games than what was shown on SportsChannel at the time, but I could watch Hockey Night in Canada. I watched HNIC almost every weekend until I moved away to college. Like millions of other people The Hockey Theme grew on me. It is an awesome tune.

After not seeing Hockey Night In Canada for about a decade, I’ve decided to subscribe to the NHL Center Ice package, which means I can finally hear Don Cherry’s wisdom once more. But I’m kind of bummed that that totally badass tune will no longer be the precursor to the (usually) awesome match-up shown by CBC that night.

Tonight, I watched the Canucks/Flames game. CBC showed both anthem finalists during the second intermission, and Canadian Gold is the one I like better. Let’s hope it wins!

Puck Junk is 1 today

Puck Junk 1st AnniversaryWow, I must have had like ten other things on my mind if I just now realized that PuckJunk.com has reached its first anniversary.

I launched this site on October 5, 2007, although it had been an idea I wanted to do since late 2006. Once I decided to quit my 40-hour a week job as a web designer to concentrate on teaching and freelance, the abundance of free time allowed me to develop, launch and maintain this site.

But while my passion for all things hockey has not diminished, my free time has. While I was able to crank out 35 assorted articles from October to December 2007 (plus random blog posts), my output from January to September has been less than that–only 32 “real” articles as of this writing…though I do seem to be doing a lot of random blog posts about hockey stuff more so than last year.

A few things have gone down that have taken up a lot of my free time. I started dating this girl named Shellie in January, and things have worked out well–so well, that we are now living together. No complaints from her about my collecting habits, here, as she has hobbies of her own. Plus, I’m starting to get her “into” hockey.

Another thing that I have mentioned is that I started Graduate School. That is also eating up a good portion of my “free time”. As much as I love writing about old sets of cards, the idea of getting straight As in Grad School right now is a bit more appealing to me. Not only am I going back to college, but I am also writing for the school’s paper.

So, while I don’t always write on this site as much as I’d like to, it is always on my mind. Hopefully, with the hockey season now upon us, I’ll be able to get some new reviews up soon.

Sal is moving…

Sorry, no pictures…but I promise that this is interesting and worth reading.

Recently, I took one giant stride towards “acting like an adult” when I decided to move in with my girlfriend Shellie. More accurately, we decided to move in with each other. But she isn’t moving in at my place, and I’m not moving in at hers; instead, we are getting a “new” place together.

I am both excited and overwhelmed. So much to do…so little time to do extracurricular stuff, like update Puck Junk with new articles.

My planned move day is this Saturday. In the interim, I have been slowly moving things to the new place, which is conveniently 1/2 block away from my current place of residence.

I have been a man of many hobbies, from collecting GI Joe and Star Wars figures, to collecting vintage Transformers–including rare Japanese imports. And, let us not forget hockey cards and collectibles. Right now, hockey seems to be my “big thing”. I’ve never gotten tired of collecting hockey cards…but there have been years when I have taken a break from it. Eight years ago, I was really into Transformers. Four years ago, my number one hobby was GI Joe action figures (from the 1980s to present).

In the past few years, I have sold off much of my toy collection. Many times, I’d ask myself “Why did I buy this?” As in, “Why did I buy these bootleg Transformers toys?” Or, “Why did I buy four of this particular GI Joe figure?”. Or “Why the hell did I decide to start collecting Captain Power, Ronin Warriors, etc. etc?”

However, I have never regretted purchasing a hockey card. Sure, I’ve sold or traded cards, but only my doubles, or to get cards I really wanted. My Pro Set cards from 1990-91 are as meaningful to me now as they were back in 1990-91.

So, I’ve decided to concentrate most of my collecting efforts on hockey cards. There is just so much variety, so much history…so much undiscovered cool stuff out there, that I feel that this is a hobby I’ll never bore of. After all, it has been almost two decades.

Back to my move. One of the bedrooms in this new apartment will be for my stuff–a haven for Sal, and where no dogs shall roam (my girlfriend has three basset hounds–good dogs, but old cards do smell like gum, and dogs like to chew on things). One of my big plans for this room is to “consolidate the collection”. I have a lot of binders full of complete hockey sets–some of them are here, but most are at my Grandma’s house. Once I am settled in, I am going to purchase some tall bookshelves to store and showcase my card collection. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, and I am excited that I finally can.

I’m also going to frame and hang many of the autographed photos I’ve acquired throughout the years, including Denis Savard, Patrick Roy, Doug Wilson, Gump Worsley, Guy Lafleur, Marcel Dionne, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Al MacInnis.

My goal is for this room to look cool–but not too cluttered.

So, I won’t be updating this site for at least a week. I won’t have internet access at my new place until at least the middle of next week. Until then, I’ll be unpacking, building shelves, and doing the other two hundred things that need doing when you move to a new place.

Luc Bourdon is dead

bourdon_ripVancouver Canucks defenseman Luc Bourdon died on Thursday when he crashed his motorcycle into a semi truck. The Hockey News article regarding this can bee seen here.

Coincidentally, I traded away two Luc Bourdon cards earlier in the week–a Young Guns, and a game used card.

Upon hearing the news of his death this morning (via The Hockey News email newsletter, I of course was both surprised and a bit sad. I never saw this guy play, but I’m always sad when stuff like this happens. I was bummed when Jon Kordic died in 1992, and when Gaetan Duchense died last year.

It’s even sadder when it is someone who never got a chance to realize their true potential.

A player’s death always has one negative, albeit short term, impact in the hobby. All of a sudden, a card that was selling for $1 becomes a $10 card. This has already begun on eBay–not even 24 hours after his death. I saw Bourdon’s OPC rookie card from last year, with an asking price of $20–that’s more than what Evgeny Malkin’s RC in that set is worth. Some of Bourdon’s autographed stuff is going for over $30 now. I’m sure most of it would have sold for only $5 two days before.

When a player plays well, we try and cash in. When a player makes it into the Hall of Fame, we also try to cash in. And, when a player passes away–sometimes tragically–some people try to cash in on that too. That is one trend in the hobby that I never enjoy.