My Photo With* the Stanley Cup

The Stanley Cup is visiting the Portland area, part of its summer PR tour (in these tough economic times, I guess even icons have to promote). Hockey’s great trophy, which was originally a decorative English punch bowl, was downtown today. It’s also visiting a couple of local ice arenas, and Captain Ron’s Sports Bar & Grill in Sherwood, where my hockey team used to drink. It’s going to all the storied places!

Anyhow, it was appearing today at Pioneer Square, at lunch. Time for a field trip to see the hallowed cup, which has been drop-kicked onto the Rideau Canal (1905), stolen (1907), forgotten in Montreal (1924), stolen again (1970), and sunk in a swimming pool (1993).

Despite (or maybe because of) its colorful history, it’s one of the most cherished prizes in sports.  Captains of hockey teams that win conference championships have a superstition of refusing to touch the conference trophy–they don’t want to jinx their chances of lifting the Cup.

Actually, its popularity extends much farther than NHL hockey teams. For decades, the two titans of Canadian beer production, Molson’s and Labatt, engaged in epic, stalemated trench warfare for market share. Then one year Labatt hit on the idea of including miniature Stanley Cups in specially marked cases of beer. In a market where a fraction of a percentage point gain in market share is big news, they scored the equivalent of a marketing hat trick. The lesson for you marketing students is that the gift-in-the-Happy-Meal model works for beer drinkers too–but only if you give them exactly the right gift.

Back to today. I could have my picture taken with the cup if I donated to charity, but by the time I arrived, the square was full of people:

I didn’t have time to wait in line. So I walked out on that cement ledge on the left, and got a little closer:

Better, but not that great. Then I talked a nice girl, who was taking a lunch break from jury duty, into taking my picture:

Sure, you could quibble, that the Cup is small, and out of focus, and 100 ft. behind me. All true. On the other hand, I paid it some respect. Unlike the dork in the red t-shirt (below) …

… who had his picture taken–but only after he’d put his stuffed purple octopus in the top.

Well, whatever. Mission accomplished, with only a slight asterisk. Oh, and Sherwood Helping Hands? I owe you a donation.

Hockey Aptonyms

An aptonym is one term for someone whose name is apt for what they do. The Freakonomics blog loves aptonyms, and there’s a good discussion of them on Slate. The Slate article notes that they’ve been talked about since Roman days, when they were nomen et omen. They’ve also been called “aptronyms,” “namephreaks,” “eponymy,” “cognomen syndrome” (which sounds painful), “nominative determinism” (which sounds like crap straight out of my old philosophy books).

But the Slate list leaves out hockey players, so I’m adding to the world’s knowledge of these. Without further ado or Zamboni laps:

The National Hockey League All-Aptonym Team

First Team:

  • Brad Bombardir, Defense, Nashville Predators
  • Radek Bonk, Center, Nashville Predators
  • Brian Savage, Left Wing, Philadelphia Flyers

Second Team:

  • Jon Quick, Goalie, Los Angeles Kings
  • Derian Hatcher, Defense, Philadelphia Flyers

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Savage bonkery.

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Radek getting bonked. (Or so implied the photo caption.)

Stayin’ Alive

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We interrupt this working day to bring you news of brilliance on the internet, in the form of Nate DiMeo’s proposal in Slate, “My Plan to Save Hockey.” (He tells it in the form of a letter to the NHL, which explains why he keeps using you).

First the problem: “Thanks to a functional but deeply imperfect revenue-sharing system, you’re getting by. But you’re propping up franchises that have no business surviving. … you let salary growth far outpace revenue growth. You expanded all the way to the breaking point (if you’re looking for this point on a map, it’s suspiciously close to Nashville).”

Then the proposal: Make the NHL like The English Premiership, where “the three worst Premiership teams are kicked down to the league immediately below them. The best two teams from that lower league move up; the third team gets promoted after winning a thrilling playoff series.”

It’s no accident that English Premier League soccer is addictive. It’s great. But it takes some getting used to, because it’s geographically chaotic, and you have conversations with yourself like this:

  1. Manchester City is playing Manchester United?
  2. Cockswold on the Glen is playing Buggerborough? Oh, like I’m going to tune in for that — oh wait, doesn’t Buggerborough have that amazing Nigerian striker I saw in the last World Cup? I take it back. What time is it on?

But back to the ice. Is relegation for NHL a good idea? Yes, it’s unalloyed genius. Here’s why:

You’re not just rooting for your own favorite club and watching what happens at the top of the league. You’re also watching teams duke it out at the bottom as they fight for survival. Plus, it means that there aren’t perennial basement dwellers. Team owners have to keep investing in their team if they want to stay in the spotlight (and stay where the money is). If baseball had this system, the nation would have been rid of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays a long time ago.

Not only that, the league contracts (which it needs to), and other hockey hotbeds, which now have great owners and fan bases, get a shot at the big time:

If the Halifax Mooseheads are slugging it out with the New York Rangers for the 2012 Stanley Cup, then all the better. That will mean the Mooseheads can draw 18,000 rabid fans and have owners who’ve invested in building a great team.

And damned if I wouldn’t be first in line to buy a Mooseheads jersey.