Keep Hold Of That Popcorn Boy!

I hope you’ll endulge me today as I share with you a favorite hockey story of mine…one that involves the little monsters that I lovingly refer to as the “Tax Exemptions”.

I take you back to November of 2000 and the Philadelphia Flyers were paying Philips Arena a visit. Oh, there’s nothing really noteworthy about that game… the Thrashers lost 3-2 in overtime…but what made this night so special was that it was the first game that I ever took the boys and the Divine Mrs. R to. The kids were 8 and 7 years of age and I got the four of us tickets in section 302, about halfway up in that upper-deck section behind the net.

Now, the two of them were well versed in attending Atlanta Braves baseball games as the team in the ‘90s was simply all the rage in Atlanta. So to them, going to a sporting event meant settling into their seats… popcorn, hotdog and soda in hand… and watching for three hours as nine innings of baseball played out before them. But I thought hockey would be a pleasant change of pace for the two.

When we reached the isle to walk down to our seats, the puck had just dropped just seconds prior. Therefore, the boys were greeted by the usher with the “stop” sign.

“Why we can’t go to our seats, Daddy”? asked the oldest while the youngest squatted down to get a good look down the isle and towards the game…all the time holding onto his bucket of popcorn making sure not one kernal fell out. As we waited for a stoppage in play, I explained to them the concept of “hockey etiquette”. Once in our seats, they settled in with eats and drinks as they typically would at Turner Field, (and Fulton County Stadium before that), and assumed their normal viewing positions…sitting there… quietly.

Until….

Only a few minutes after we sat down, somebody got jacked against the boards. It was a good hit too…one of those that rattles the glass, shakes the boards and leaves an opposing player hurting so bad that he wished his parents had never even met. Along with everyone else in the arena that night, my boys jumped to their feet, screamed their approval and pointing toward the ice!

Popcorn and Sprite, flew all over the place…in the air…into the seasts…onto the floor…all over the couple in front of us…

“Oh YEAHHHHhhhhhhh”!!!!!! The youngest one shouted!

“THAT never happens at a baseball game”, remarked the oldest.

Of course the wife and I…after the initial shock of their reaction to the check wore off…went straight into parent mode. We apologized to the man and woman who were now pulling popcorn from their hair, but to our surprise they were laughing out loud and telling us not to worry about it.

“Let me guess…first game for them”, she asked.

Indeed…first game.

After their first NHL hockey experience, the Tax Exemtions have learned the game while playing it and enjoying many more Thrashers games (Photo by The Divine Mrs. R)

After their first NHL hockey experience, the Tax Exemtions have grown to love the sport by playing it as well as attending many more games at Philips, (Photo by The Divine Mrs. R)

The boys spent as much time on their feet as they did their backsides for the rest of the evening. Thank God they were short then and no one was sitting directly behind us. They had a blast that night watching as this fast-paced, wide-open game unfolded before their eyes for the very first time. I explained the rules as the night went on and they seemed to pick it up quick. Of course to them, the game wasn’t too difficult to figure out…get the puck into that net, don’t let the other team get it into this one and knock the pure, holy snot outa anyone in an orange and black jersey who happens to have the puck.

Simple.

Both boys went on to play the game at the local rink. Like you…or maybe your kids…they both still have the pucks in which they scored their first ever goal mounted atop mantles in their rooms. The oldest one scored his with 28.6 seconds left in the third to break a 1-1 tie. It was the only one he scored that season…so I guess he picked a pretty good time to do it, eh?

The tax exemptions are teenagers now…17 and 16…and sharing a Thrashers game with them is still among the best times we have together. Of course, when the youngest comes back from the concession stand with his popcorn…I just give him that look and he says, “Yeah, yeah…I got ahold of it”.

179 comments Add your comment

Russian

August 4th, 2009
1:47 pm

[b]to ranallo[/b]
That is excately right. If Kovy will go away from Atlanta. We will get two solid line. Excellent Thinking. :-)

The Earl of Bud

August 4th, 2009
2:02 pm

WBF — Backman is who I was talking about. He would add size to the back line (6′4 210), is a defensive minded defender, and is still relatively young (29). I envision him as a third pairing defender for Atlanta, which would leave the 6/7 slot for open competition between Salmella (likely 6th)and Valabik/Oystrick/Welch.

ranallo10 (in AT), that was actually me who asked you. I know, you can’t tell the WNY guys apart. Either way, we would have 3 guys (Oystrick, Valabik, now Backman) competing for that last spot not to mention Kulda and Postma still waiting to come up. I just think we would have a glut of bottom pairing defensemen that we already have enough of. Also, if Salmela is your #6, then who do you have as #5? I have him as #5 and Oystrick/Valabik as the #6/7 depending on the night.

R. Stroz

August 4th, 2009
2:03 pm

So the real question is whether Zherdev is another Yashin or a kid that needs the right motivation.

Hartley benched Kovy a few times to learn lessons as well.

The Earl of Bud

August 4th, 2009
2:08 pm

R. Stroz, when Kovy got benched it was for parts of 1 game. Zherdev on the other hand has been demoted down a line or benched for stretches of games. Again, he wasn’t even one of the 19 forwards invited to Russia’s Olympic camp, so they are not so high on him anymore either.

The Earl of Bud

August 4th, 2009
2:12 pm

R. Stroz, I also think it is crazy to draw an analogy between Zherdev and Kovalchuk. If Kovalchuk doesn’t get offered a contract, do you think the day he becomes an UFA there are going to be stories in the paper about how Hartley benched him?

Thrasher blue

August 4th, 2009
2:14 pm

WBF::::: Mary Tyler Myers is too skinny, but Ed Asner still had a thing for her. Dick Van Dyke loved her too.

Russian

August 4th, 2009
2:23 pm

**to The Earl of Bud**
Zherdev is not on Olimpic Team, because he does not have contract with team. Do you think Crazy Max better that Zherdev?

Sara

August 4th, 2009
2:33 pm

Glovesave there isn’t a chance in Hades that the NHL won’t allow participation in the 2014 Olympics – not unless Bettman’s prepared to watch Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Malkin, and a whole host of others defect back to Russia. It’s been made quite clear that they WILL be playing in Sochi regardless of what the League or anyone associated with it thinks.

The Earl of Bud

August 4th, 2009
2:37 pm

Russian, where is it that you must have an NHL contract to be invited to camp? If so, how does Nikulin get on the team? Just look at the reaction of fans in NY now that Zherdev is leaving. They aren’t upset that he is gone, they are upset that they gave up Fedor Tyutin in order to get him.

J.B.

August 4th, 2009
2:48 pm

Earl, I don’t know if there’s a rule that you have to have a contract to get an olympic invite, but i believe Ilya Nikulin is under contract to play for Ak Bars Kazan right now.

ranallo10 (in AT)

August 4th, 2009
2:54 pm

EOB — New York fans are not exactly known for their logical reasons for loving/hating a player.

To answer your question, Backman is better than Salmella, thus would push him to #6 in my opinion. I’m not sold on Salmella but I assume his new contract gets him penciled into the starting lineup. Without Backman I am guessing the top 7 is:
Enstrom – Bogosian
Hainsey – Kubina
Salmella – Valabik
Oystrick

I guess I should go ahead and say it now (so a specific someone doesn’t attempt to throw it back at me in 8 months) that I don’t believe Atlanta will sign Backman or Zherdev. I consider them to be done for the offseason, and would be surprised if any more acquisitions happen. However, if either of those players were signed I’d be pleasantly surprised. Same with Marcel Goc.

R. Stroz

August 4th, 2009
3:05 pm

EOB – The only comparison I was making was to point out that Kovy and Zherdev have both been benched for lazy and/or stupid play.

Hartley benched Kovy numerous times to make a point about defensive responsibility and two way play. It worked.

Anderson had Kovy playing with third liners last year. It didn’t work.

Zherdev has issues, no doubt. The question is whether those issues can be corrected through coaching and maturity. It took several years to teach Kovy the importance of two way play, and, at times, he still has a propensity to cherry pick.

Has Zherdev shown any proof that he has the talent of Kovy? No. Then again, if Zherdev did have Kovy numbers, Zherdev’s next contract wouldn’t be around 4 million/year would it?

At the end of day, the major deciding factor is whether Kovy thinks he can instill a better work ethic in Zherdev.

The Earl of Bud

August 4th, 2009
3:06 pm

ranallo10 (in AT), I actually liked what I saw of Salmela. He was a little physical but was able to carry the puck well and I think that is good for Anderson. But I wouldn’t throw it back at you in 8 months if we didn’t sign Backman.

I would give up on Goc now. Considering that SJ is the only team left in the Heatley options, they would have to give up Marleau at this point. Add in that Roenick will retire, they are going to hold onto their remaining centers.

Thrasher blue

August 4th, 2009
3:08 pm

do not like the Salmella -Valabik line….Valabik is a big wuss, can’t pass, takes alot of pentalties, altho some penalties are just a product of his inexperience(no love from refs) and size. I liked what I saw of Salmella, but I feel he needs a veteran. Just an opinion, please don’t beat me up with stats. haha

J.B.

August 4th, 2009
3:11 pm

Stroz, just read Rolland Hedges is Zherdev’s agent.

The Earl of Bud

August 4th, 2009
3:12 pm

R. Stroz, Zherdev has already played for 2 Stanley Cup winning coaches and both of them don’t think he can change his ways. Please don’t make any comparisons of that to Kovalchuk getting a lesson from Hartley and Kovalchuk actually busting his @ss and earning the captaincy of this team.

R. Stroz

August 4th, 2009
3:18 pm

EOB – A little testy today. So you’re saying a leopard can’t change its spots?

R. Stroz

August 4th, 2009
3:19 pm

ranallo10 (in AT)

August 4th, 2009
3:23 pm

EOB — Goc has already been let go by San Jose. He’s a UFA.

Zherdev is still only 24…he’s got PLENTY of time to mature as a player.

The Earl of Bud

August 4th, 2009
3:45 pm

R. Stroz, not a little testy, just a little rational. To compare Zherdev’s effort after being put on the trading block by his first team and then not even resigned by the next to Ilya Kovalchuk’s effort who is all-everything on his team is beyond comprehension. I’m just asking, please don’t compare the effort of those two players as if they were both benched in the same manner.

ranallo10 (in AT), I know he was a RFA, but has he already gone through the whole arbitration/release bit? I haven’t been following him so you tell me, but I thought he was still a RFA at this point. Even though a player has plenty of time to mature does not mean we throw a wad of money at him to pout on the bench.

“**to The Earl of Bud**
Zherdev is not on Olimpic Team, because he does not have contract with team. Do you think Crazy Max better that Zherdev?

Russian, I don’t know how I didn’t catch this earlier, but you said that Zherdev was not invited to the Olympic camp because he doesn’t have a contract. Then you made reference to Afinogenov getting invited. But Afinogenov doesn’t have a contract either, but he still got invited. So clearly the Russian Olympic committee is not at all pleased with Zherdev and it has nothing to do with his lack of NHL contract. The same applies for Sergei Zubov who doesn’t have a contract but was invited to the Russian Olympic camp.

GaVaHokie

August 4th, 2009
3:49 pm

Coaches hate Zherdev because he refuses to play a two-way game… that’s where he gets the “lazy” moniker… you can’t put 219 shots on net and be “lazy”.

I’d give him a shot in our system… we already don’t play defense… might as well counter those 274 Goals Against with an extra 219 shots on net.

R. Stroz

August 4th, 2009
3:57 pm

EOB – As neither you nor I are the Thrashers GM, we have NO input on the Zherdev decision.

However, in order to be rational, I will once again restate my earlier thesis:

At the end of day, the major deciding factor is whether Kovy thinks he can instill a better work ethic in Zherdev, as Kovy has more input into the Zherdev decision than either you or I do.

A leopard can’t change it’s spots any more than a Ti-Cat can change it’s stripes; however, their hunting habits can change based on different environments.

The Earl of Bud

August 4th, 2009
4:00 pm

GaVaHokie, here’s how Zherdev was described – “He barely competed for the puck, rarely went to the front, and hardly ever seemed hungry enough to score that he’d give up his body to drive to the net.” I think the “lazy” moniker is not just due to his refusal to play a two-way game.

GaVaHokie

August 4th, 2009
4:01 pm

Here’s something I found from 2004… there could be some Kovalchuk admiration there.

Other Russian players like Kovalchuk and Sergei Federov marvel out loud about Zherdev’s eye popping talent and vision on the ice.

http://www.thefourthperiod.com/fivehole022604.html

Toby

August 4th, 2009
4:06 pm

Looks like our old friend Ken Klee retired.

http://hfboards.com/showthread.php?t=669718

The Earl of Bud

August 4th, 2009
4:10 pm

R. Stroz, I’ll give you that Kovalchuk can be a big swing factor here, but just like none of us are GM, none of us know what Kovalchuk thinks of the guy right now circa 2009. As for the change of environment, that didn’t seem to help much when he went from Columbus to NY.

GaVaHokie, no one doubts that Zherdev has talent. Just like no one doubts Kovalev had talent. It’s heart that makes us want to avoid the guy. On a parallel, does anyone doubt that Lehtonen has talent? No. But because he keeps getting injured is the reason we want to see us trade him, not because of the talent that he has. So talent alone is not the key indicator that makes us for or against picking up a free agent.

GaVaHokie

August 4th, 2009
4:16 pm

EOB… I hear ya… he’s an opportunist… Time & Space… Hands & Feet. That’s the game you get from Zherdev. He’s NOT going to fight for the puck.

But I can watch this clip and it looks like carbon copies of Thrasher goals… one more guy who can take the puck end-to-end.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyoriKeZbyk

Alan

August 4th, 2009
4:18 pm

As for the change of environment, that didn’t seem to help much when he went from Columbus to NY.

He went from a team whose coach (Hitchcock) treated him like garbage, to a team whose new coach (Torts) treated him like garbage. Yet you sit here and marvel at how he isn’t excelling.

GaVaHokie

August 4th, 2009
4:19 pm

Earl… I agree on the “heart” issue, but that’s the benefit of him being a UFA now… he can go wherever his “heart” takes him.

… let it be here. :)

Alan

August 4th, 2009
4:19 pm

Another day, another blog purgatory post.

LAC

August 4th, 2009
4:34 pm

Well ranallo10/11/52 or whatever, I don’t go over every post,no time, so I guess you now have your Jolly Moment for the day when you… TRY to point out how superior you are…. NOT !

Thrasher blue

August 4th, 2009
4:34 pm

Zherdev, 24, can score…lots of upside. How is Kovy coming along with his 2 way play? Getting better with age?? I agree with Ranallo(10)

GaVaHokie

August 4th, 2009
4:51 pm

The Rangers are insane… sorry, I’ll take this guy on my team any day. Ales Kotalik is not equal to Nik Zherdev… good luck getting Gaborik to play 82 games for you and at twice the money.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrbgFib7UAU&feature=related

The Earl of Bud

August 4th, 2009
4:55 pm

The Russian Olympic committee invited these guys ahead of Zherdev: Evgeny Artyukhin, Maxim Afinogenov, Konstantin Gorovikov, Danis Zaripov, Sergei Zinoviev, Nikolai Kulemin, Alexei Morozov, Oleg Saprykin, Alexei Tereschenko. Not exactly a who’s who of players you wish would come to your club this offseason, yet they all got invited to the Russian Olympic camp while Zherdev didn’t.

“He went from a team whose coach (Hitchcock) treated him like garbage, to a team whose new coach (Torts) treated him like garbage. Yet you sit here and marvel at how he isn’t excelling.

Alan, Tom Renney had a reputation of being soft on players, part of the reason folks felt they needed a 180 degree turn and went to Torts. But yet Zherdev was in the doghouse under Renney.

Alan

August 4th, 2009
5:04 pm

But yet Zherdev was in the doghouse under Renney.

Zherdev played far better under Renney than he did under Torts. Unlike a lot of what you’ve said in this thread, that’s an actual fact.

Brendan

August 4th, 2009
5:55 pm

I would want us to talk to Nikki Zherdev. But I have heard reports that he’s something of a cancer in the lockerroom. That’s ‘hearsay.’ But this will be his 3rd team in HOW MANY seasons? To me, the issue is … does Kovalchuk want him? If yes, then I echo Alan’s sentiments. Get Kovy what he wants. The sooner Kovalchuk is re-signed, the sooner that distraction is avoided.

Tony C.

August 4th, 2009
6:12 pm

Also Zinovjiev, and Morozov are pretty damn good players. Just because they stay in Russia, don’t think they can’t play. In fact #17 practically begged for Zinovjiev to be signed last year-he’s the pivot on #17’s line on the national team-career numbers go like this:
416 GP (SuperLeague & KHL Combined)
G 101
A 169
Pts. 270

Not bad for an also-ran. Also you look at where his teams finished, and the guy’s a winner. I don’t know how you feel about stoners, but that’s really the only negative I see with the guy (got suspended from National team for pot use a few years ago). Anyway, he’s not coming here because he just signed a 5-year contract… but my point being-just because MOST of the best in the world play in the NHL doesn’t mean ALL do.

World Be Free

August 4th, 2009
6:43 pm

Ranallo-I like Backman, surprised that nobody has signed him yet. He may also be pulling a “Manny” by fielding several offers and picking the best. Still a fair number serviceable players out there.

I don’t understand Detroit signing Delmore and Eaves.

World Be Free

August 4th, 2009
6:53 pm

Thrasher Blue-the Myers is 6′8″ around 220#, hence the need to get him to my favorite Polish pub in western NY-the Polish Villa. Great Polish Food.

GaVaHokie

August 4th, 2009
6:54 pm

Russia naturally, and foolishly, will want to spotlight their KHL players, so I expect a few NHL guys to get the shaft. Guys like Artyukin are depth players… Zherdev wouldn’t get much ice time ahead of Kovy, Ovechkin, Semin, Datysuk, Morozov, Tereschenko, etc… same reason why a guy like Armstrong would make Canada over someone like Spezza.

Sorry for Russia too… their insane… Zherdev should have been invited to camp. But, they’ll have plenty of goal-scoring… defense will be their issue. ;)

GaVaHokie

August 4th, 2009
7:00 pm

I’ve seen a lot of NY and Columbus fans bashing Christian Backman… I’m not sure why. He could be like Andy Sutton or Greg DeVries was for us… he’s a guy that looks good on paper until you watch him 82 games a year. The kind of guy you look at a stat sheet and say “well, he blocked 110 shots, and was plus 15. Why does he suck so bad?”

And if you watch Andy Sutton all year, you KNOW the reason is “he takes bad penalties with 2 minutes left in the game” and “he tries to poke check instead of using his body”.

World Be Free

August 4th, 2009
7:02 pm

The question of the day-

Zherdev is the topic of conversation for many today. So here’s the question-assuming both wanted to play for Atlanta and would sign in te near future, which would you take and why?

Malholtra or Zherdev?

1) Which player 2) and why (or suggest another player/why)

Brendan

August 4th, 2009
11:16 pm

WBF, my answer is Zherdev, provided Kovalchuk endorses him. If Kovy says, “You sign that guy, you’re not helping to keep me,” then I don’t. For me, with regard to signing UFA’s, three things principally interest me. 1) Why do you want to play for Atlanta? What are you expectations? 2) What is it going to cost? 3) What is the impact on my future cap situation?

If the player’s answers are, “I want to play someplace warm, where I’ll get a better opportunity to play more minutes. And I particularly want to tackle the challenge of a market that is trying to get back into the playoff picture,” then I like that answer. If the player says, “All I’m asking for, contractually, is my fair market value, and not more than that,” then I like that answer. And lastly, if my future caps are still manageable by signing this guy to 2, or 3, or 4 years … then I like that, too. But if the player’s answers are something like, “I’m looking to pad my stats on Kovy’s line for the next few years,” I’m less encouraged. And if the guy’s response to salary is, “I’m looking for the best pay day I can get; you offer me more … and I’ll play here,” then the guy’s interests are primarily financial, and not sayyyy, in the team’s best interest. And if that over-inflated UFA contract is going to be on my books for 4 seasons, I’m none too thrilled about that, either. Especially if Kovy walks, and that was the REASON the UFA agreed to sign here in the first place.

Brendan

August 4th, 2009
11:30 pm

Ahhh, Mandy. Or, as Barry Manilow might say, “Oh, Mandy!” Gosh, that’s a name from the past. Rightly or wrongly, Andy Sutton is sort of the “poster child” of what was wrong, during that era, for me. Personally. I’d also accept “Jaroslav Modry” as a potential poster child. Hard to believe Sutton played five (5) seasons with Atlanta, over a six-year span. I think we got Sutton in a trade. Hmmn. For whom? Uggh. I can’t remember. Was it Hnat Domenichelli?

Mr. Heat Miser

August 5th, 2009
12:04 am

My first NHL game was in the mid 70’s as a preteen – Flames vs. some other team I can’t remember. I do remember the ticket was around $4 and you could get a Chick-Fil-A Sandwich at the beloved Omni for 25 cents. You could hang banners as big as bedsheets from the upper level.

World Be Free

August 5th, 2009
6:09 am

Brendan–We got Sutton from the Wild, but I can’t remember for whom. I like your criterion for Zherdev or any new player. One word to add is commitment-what is your commitment to the team.

Heat-Miser-like the $4 ticket thing! Can’t even get into a HS football game these days for under $7!

ranallo10 (in AT)

August 5th, 2009
7:00 am

WBF — I understand where you’re going with your questioning, but I don’t see it the same way. If Kovalchuk doesn’t re-sign, who helps the Atlanta Thrashers more … Malhotra or Zherdev? If Kovalchuk’s re-signing was imminent, I would agree with you that Malhotra (or another defensively responsible player of his ilk) is more beneficial to the roster, but unfortunately the re-signing is not a foregone conclusion thus any acquisition has to keep in mind the long term benefits and not simply focus on the short term gains.

Thus, my vote goes to Zherdev…especially considering he can play both wings.

Hokie — You’re absolutely right, Backman could be the Sutton of the Blue Jackets or Rangers. I don’t know much about his game beyond what I’ve read, so he could be horrendous in the defensive zone, make untimely penalties (he averages in the 30s for PIM), or simply benefits statistically from his pairing or PP time. Frantisek Kaberle and Jaroslav Modry looked stupendous statistically when they played for Atlanta…but watching them play night in and night out made most Atlanta fans understand those stats were very misleading.

LAC — I love you too, Big Guy! How’re those eight companies of yours faring in this economic downturn?

GaVaHokie

August 5th, 2009
8:25 am

ranallo… what makes me think of Andy Sutton was how excited Islander fans were when they signed him. Across all the message boards… “Can’t believe Atlanta didn’t want this guy. He’s big, he blocks shots”.

J.B.

August 5th, 2009
8:35 am

re: zherdev, another good person to consult with would be antropov since the Niks have played together on the rags much more recently than Kovy + either…

GaVaHokie

August 5th, 2009
8:40 am

JB… agreed.

If Zherdev ends up on this team it will be because Antropov and Kovy vouched for him, and probably made some phone calls to coerce him to sign.