Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Partying with the Bears

Note: This blog post is pretty much purely fluff. I just wanted to share my experience of the Bears Cup Celebration and some of the funny things that happened. Also, I'm barely conscious due to lack of sleep from this very event.

After watching the thrilling conclusion of the Calder Cup Finals on Monday night, after the tears of happiness subsided, news came out that the party would be Tuesday night, 7:00-10:00 PM. In my stupor, I suddenly thought, "I have to be in Hershey tomorrow!"  So I reserved a Zipcar, printed out directions, and went to bed thinking thoughts of that shiny Calder Cup being passed around the ice of the Giant Center.

The problem? I work a 9-5 job and wouldn't be able to leave early. The second the clock hit 5:00 PM on Tuesday, I bolted out of the office. Three hours of infuriating traffic and some speeding later, I arrived at the Giant Center around 8:00 PM (free parking when it's usually $7? BONUS!) I entered the floor and found a swarm of people (as I learned later, estimated to be about 5,000) on the covered ice surface. I was able to track down my friend Kathryn, waiting for Karl Alzner's autograph. I'd missed the presentation/speech part, but was just in time for the autographs. I slid into line with Kathryn.

Alzner, much to my dismay, had shaved completely, and there was no trace left of the once-glorious lumberjack beard.


And *sob* After:

Next stop for me? Cody Eakin. A short line led to a very excited me nabbing a picture with the flame-haired Canadian. But here's him with a small child.

I was continuing to pass by Michal Neuvirth's table (his line was too long for me to wait in) and he is one of the guys who chose to keep his stunna shades on. Probably because his eyes were glazed over from how much he'd had to drink.

Steve Pinizzotto and Alexandre Giroux were sharing a table, and it was the next place I headed. I already have Giroux's autograph (courtesy of last year's Caps Convention), so waited in the line for Pinner. While some guys like Roo and Bryan Helmer opted for shaving their playoff beards into handlebar mustaches...

Pinner decided to go... a different route...

Yes, those would be stripes shaved into Pinner's beard.

I decided that with that look, Pinner strongly resembled a late-1990s AJ McLean, of Backstreet Boys fame:

Next... the time had come... for Keith Aucoin. A shockingly short line meant I thankfully didn't have much time to panic, though by the time I got to him I was still shaking like a leaf. He happily signed my jersey, which features his name and number, and I had enough time to snag a picture with him. One of the best quotes of the night was courtesy of Coiner. I wanted Coiner to sign on his numbers on the back of my jersey (the numbers are brown so a black Sharpie would not have worked), so Coiner reached over to grab the silver pen in front of tablemate Andrew Gordon. It had run dry (thankfully I had bought silver Sharpies that day). As I dug the pen out of my purse, Aucoin jokingly said of his linemate:
"I can't count on him for anything!"  
As with Alzner, Aucoin also shaved off the glory of his playoff, um, mutton chops.

Tablemate Andrew Gordon had a significantly longer line. We soon found out why. Gordo was having a conversation with everyone. By the time I got to him, he confessed to me that he really had to go to the bathroom (being as the guys had been drinking, several of them kept hopping over the boards and sprinting off to use the restroom). I found it hilarious that Gordo decided to share the status of his bladder with me.

By that time, there wasn't a whole lot of time left in the party. I sprinted to Chris Bourque's line, who was trying to drive people from his long line into tablemate Simon Ferguson's nonexistent line (ribbing Ferguson in the process). Bourque was sporting a Red Sox shirt and his MVP trophy was sitting on the table in front of him. Bourque also was gracious enough to take a picture with me.

There were about 10 minutes left, and I noticed that Zach Miskovic had no line.  Signed and picture (and absolutely kicking myself for not chatting with him about growing up in the Chicago suburbs, as both of us did). Braden Holtby's line was looking less than 10 minutes long. Signed and picture. I resisted asking him to be a part of my "Why Does He Do That?" feature regarding the famed "Holtbyisms."

After autographs were over, I made my first visit to the Bear's Den with tweeps Natalie (who shared her celebration experience with The Hockey Chronicles) and Kim, then hit the road, and finally got home around 2:15 AM. It was a stellar evening, and well worth the less-than-5-hours of sleep. Congratulations to the Hershey Bears, Calder Cup Champions for the 11th time.

(Autographs are, clockwise from the top left corner, Grant McNeill, Karl Alzner, Cody Eakin, Chris Bourque, Zach Miskovic, Andrew Gordon, Braden Holtby, Boyd Kane, and Steve Pinizzotto. And of course the back features Keith Aucoin.)

Final Note: Unless otherwise noted, all photographs in this post were taken by me and are my property.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Focus on Prospects: Joe Finley

photo by me

Name: Joe Finley
Position: D
Shoots: Left
Height: 6'7"
Weight: 247 lbs
Birthdate: 1987-06-29
Hometown: Edina, Minnesota

By popular demand, RoaRR presents: the man, the legend, Joe Finley.  Let's start off with the elephant in the room, shall we?

 created by the lovely Dana

Yes, the guy may not have the best judgment under the influence of alcohol and gets arrested for throwing lawnmowers into the street with his buddy, then gives the cops a fake name.  Oops.  He's also known as a bit of a thug by opponent teams.  He once allegedly slashed the Bucky the Beaver UW mascot during a game, and YouTube is littered with a few videos of fights and nasty hits.

But the bottom line is that he is a decent defenseman.  A first-round draft pick of the Capitals (27th overall) in 2005, Finley opted to go the college route instead of entering the minor leagues.  After a pre-college stint with the USHL Sioux Falls Stampede, Finley enrolled at University of North Dakota, where he quickly became a standout with the Fighting Sioux.  In his freshman year, he ended the season with a +18.  

He continued to improve his numbers through college (leading the team in +/- his sophomore and junior years) and learned to work with his large frame, but suffered a concussion in October of his senior year, which caused him to miss half the season.  The Capitals signed him after graduation in 2009, and he was assigned to the Hershey Bears.  He played one game with the Bears in 2009, and promptly made an impression, getting into a fight with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton enforcer Paul Bissonnette (now with the Phoenix Coyotes).

He attended Capitals development and rookie camps in 2009, and was briefly moved to forward by coach Bruce Boudreau.  The move didn't quite work out, but Finley went pro as a defenseman, spending the 2009-10 season with ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays (and eating the entire buffet at Golden Corral while he was at it).  Unfortunately, he was only able to play 17 games, as he suffered a freak hand injury (an artery in his hand ruptured) which required surgery, as well as sitting out the rest of the season.

Generally, I hate to quote blocks of text from Hockey's Future, but in Finley's case, it sums him up much better than I could:
In addition to his enormous frame, Finley has tremendous focus and work ethic. He has steadily improved his overall game (in particular his puck handling and skating) since being drafted. Finley is a surprisingly good skater for a 6’7 player. He is very agile, and has a heavy, accurate shot.
He'll need some more development before we see him playing with the Capitals, but he's on his way.  Development camp will be a good time to look at him - he's coming off of injury plus some pro game experience.  With all signs pointing to DC for John Carlson and Karl Alzner next year, Finley will be one of the prospects fighting for the open d-men spots on the Hershey roster.  General Manager George McPhee and Boudreau will have their eye on him; after the fight with Bissonnette, McPhee said, "It certainly showed some moxie."