Posts Tagged ‘hockey’

I love the Winter Olympics

February 25, 2010

I love the Winter Olympics.  I’m going to write just a little bit of a rambling stream of consciousness.

I like the different sports and the fact that a lot of the smaller countries that we normally don’t hear from (Norway, Finland, Switzerland, etc.) do well.  Right now Norway (4.8 million people) has 18 medals and the U.S. (300 million people) has 28.  Ok, they have more snow.  But a lot of our medals are in the newer, less traditional sports like snowboarding.  The variety of the sports is pretty impressive.

Anyway, for the same reason a lot of sportswriters don’t like the Olympics — because the sports are different from what they are used to — I like them.  Not all of the events — I can’t get into curling, and the shooting part of biathlon doesn’t seem like a sport though interestingly, there were some cool spy missions back in the day in Northern Europe, so that was an important skill.  I think it’s cool to see these sports.  I respect the athletes who worked hard their whole lives to get here.

It’s interesting to think about how certain sports are huge in certain countries — cross country skiing in Norway, speedskating in Holland, ski jumping in Austria, hockey in Canada (Look at this map of where hockey players are born. Why so many from the Czech Republic and Slovakia?  http://www.quanthockey.com/Maps/MapsCoB.php?CoB=Global&mapType=0).  Just like there are a lot of great marathon runners from Kenya.

I have good memories of watching the Winter Olympics — the skiing, the speed skating, and the hockey.  There is always heartbreak — like the speed skater who went into the wrong lane, or redemption stories like Bode Miller winning three medals.

I’m glad I went there last week.  I saw Nordic Combined, men’s and women’s cross country, the women’s downhill, and three hockey games. The one other event I would have like to have seen was speed skating but it was hard to get tickets.

Yes, there were problems — the usual ones you heard about such as poor planning — there were only outhouses for bathrooms at Whistler — think of thousands of people going to the bathroom without washing their hands — they could have built some actual bathrooms especially since you would think they’d use these venues for future international competitions; they didn’t allow food at the events but the only place to get food and drinks had long lines and closed after the events closed; many of the volunteers couldn’t answer basic questions, but mostly, things went well.

Vancouver is a great city — a perfect size to walk.  It’s surrounded on three sides by water and mountains.  One of my best memories is just walking through the city at night and seeing thousands of revelers singing “Oh, Canada” or chanting “Canada.”

As for some of the Olympic sports – I have a suggestion.  For cross country skiing, ski jumping and alpine skiing, it seems like the uniforms do not necessarily correspond to the colors of the country.  Not only that, but they rarely listed the country on them, so it’d be more fan friendly to fix those things.

Alpine skiing is great because if you’re too aggressive you fall, but if you’re too conservative your time is too slow.  Short track speed skating is great because of how quickly people can be passed and how easily you can wipeout.  Bobsled, luge and skeleton are just unique.  At first the snowboard and ski cross seemed cheesy but they are pretty exciting, you have to admit.

I just think it’s a cool atmosphere.  The Summer Olympics are great too, but they are so massive – you’re not sure where they begin or end.  I think after a rough start these games have gotten better, and it’s cool that it’s been snowing at Whistler and Cypress in the last few days because it should be snowing at the Olympics.

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Vancouver Winter Olympics: Swedish hockey team

February 23, 2010

Here’s a photo I took of the of the Swedish hockey team after their 2-0 victory last week over Germany at the Olympics in Vancouver.

Team Sweden after its 2-0 hockey victory over Germany at the Olympics in Vancouver. #19 is Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals.

Photo brought to you by www.mikeneedsakidney.com.

Vancouver Winter Olympics: Russian hockey team

February 23, 2010

Here are some photos from last week’s Russia-Latvia Olympic hockey game in Vancouver, won by the Russians, 8-2.

Evgeni Malkin of Russia and Herberts Vasiljevs of Latvia faceoff in an Olympic hockey game in Vancouver as Sergei Gonchar looks on.

Latvian players celebrate a goal against against the Russians in an 8-2 Olympic hockey loss in Vancouver.

Latvian fans celebrate a goal against the Russians at an Olympic hockey game last week in Vancouver. Russia won, 8-2.

Pavel Datsyuk of Russia prepares for a faceoff against a Latvian player during Russia's 8-2 win in an Olympic hockey game in Vancouver.

Canada Hockey Place at the Vancouver Winter Olympics: Russia vs. Latvia

Photos brought to you by www.soccerideas.net.

Sports for Children with Autism

July 23, 2009

There was a good article in the Washington Post yesterday about a boy with autism who swims on a local swim team.  Kids with autism can benefit a lot from playing sports, as can their neurotypical peers from having them on the teams.  Swimming is one of the better sports for kids with autism because it is both individual, without a lot of complex requirements, yet still social in that kids are still part of a team.

Participating in sports can help kids with autism and other disabilities in many ways.  Sports give kids with disabilities confidence, improve socialization, get more oxygen to the brain, improve coordination, help them stay in shape, help them sleep better, improve cognitive function by improving proprioception (the body’s sense of where it is in space), and reduce inappropriate behaviors.  Improvements in fine and gross motor skills often go hand in hand with improvements in academic and cognitive function.  Certain exercises can relax kids and even help align both hemispheres of the brain.  And of course, sports are also a lot of fun.

Kids with autism often like swimming, trampoline, and swinging.  This gives us clues on what kind of sensory input they need.  What is the best sport for children with autism?  I tried to answer the question a couple of years ago at http://www.coachmike.net/autism-faq.php#12.  I think the real answer is, “Whatever they like best.”  In order to find out whatever they like best, we need to get rid of our preconceived notions and expose them to as many athletic opportunities as possible.  I learned this after coaching a child in soccer a few years ago who ultimately ended up playing hockey.  I never would have thought hockey would be a great sport for kids with autism because of the need to skate and handle a stick simultaneously, but it turns out that it can be great, and it just goes to show that we shouldn’t put limitations on anyone.

Sports can be more effective for kids with disabilities when they are mixed in with academics and social skills.  You can do a half hour of sports followed by a half hour of schoolwork, followed by a half hour of social skills.  Each area helps the child generalize and build on the previous one. Sometimes people make the mistake, though well intentioned, of segregating each activity to the point where each one is facilitated by different specialists who, worst-case scenario, don’t coordinate and communicate with each other.  In any case, each activity should transition and relate to the others, and ideally, you can do some academic work while moving at the same time.  One example is to play catch or jump on a trampoline while answering questions.  This helps with sensory integration.  Yoga is also great for balance and relaxation, and deep breathing and meditation exercises can help improve the attention spans of children and reduce unwanted behaviors at the same time.

For a high functioning child, you can have him or her play in a league with typical peers, preferably a couple of years younger than the child who has autism.  The child has a “shadow” who helps integrate him or her with the other children athletically and socially.  I’ve facilitated in this way, and also coached Special Olympics soccer, and both can be great depending on the situation.  See www.soccerideas.net for ideas on drills.  It’s the same concept as in school – sometimes it’s best for kids to be mainstreamed into the typical school environment, and other times it’s best for them to be in a self-contained (special education) classroom, and often the best of both worlds is a combination of both, depending on the situation.

Exercises are great, but it’s best to do ones that are meaningful in the context of sports, so that children can eventually be part of a team, or at least play in impromptu games after school, or even use imagination to make up their own games.  It’s how kids learn best – not just sitting at a desk doing work, but getting along with others, being spontaneous, thinking on the fly.

A lot of people are familiar with the amazing story of Jason McElwain, an autistic teenager who scored 6 three-point baskets for his high school team a few years ago.  This type of success doesn’t happen a lot, but it would never happen if too many limitations are put on children who have autism and other disabilities who want to play sports.

I’d like to add one other thing.  While parents shouldn’t push their kids too hard into sports, they should expose them to sports and in some cases kids may need a nudge.  You wouldn’t tell your child who says, “I don’t want to do math” that it’s ok to avoid homework just because he or she doesn’t want to do it.  Math is necessary and good for kids.  Sports may be good for them as well, so don’t be so quick to say, “He doesn’t want to do it.”  In any case, it’s better to try something new that to do the same things over and over.  Sometimes I think parents are more autistic than the kids themselves – not willing to try anything new, just doing the same old x number of hours of therapy sitting at a desk in a vacuum.  And playing sports is certainly better than sitting inside and watching TV.

Ok, that reminds me, I have one other thing to add.  Today, a lot of kids play video games, and one video game that can be beneficial is the Nintendo Wii, which has simulated sports that can create an interest in real sports (tennis, bowling, baseball), as well as fitness (yoga, exercises, and running).

For people in the Bethesda/Montgomery County, MD/Washington, DC areas, there are several sports-related opportunities for children with autism.

  • Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN, www.keenusa.org) is a free, volunteer-run sports program for kids with disabilities.  There is a waiting list that was up to a year long the last time I checked, but they don’t turn anyone away unless they are over 21.  KEEN has a general sports program, a swim program, a music program, and a Teen Club for higher functioning children to do outings.  KEEN has chapters in Bethesda, Washington, DC, and several more across the country, and even a few in England, where KEEN began.
  • Sports Plus, based in Germantown, MD, has sports leagues for kids with high functioning autism (www.playsportsplus.org).
  • Fitness for Health in Rockville has some excellent equipment and specializes in one on one training sessions.  See http://www.fitnessforhealth.org/.
  • Special Olympics provides sports for not only children but also adults with disabilities: http://www.somdmontgomery.org/.  The Special Olympics national website is http://www.specialolympics.org/.
  • There are a few youth hockey programs in the area such as the Montgomery Cheetahs (www.montgomerycheetahs.org).

Elsewhere, check with your local schools and governments, or search the web to see what is out there.

Old Sports Media Guides and Sports Illustrateds

May 24, 2009

I sell used books, magazines, and media guides on Amazon.com.  In this blog entry I’m listing many of the sports media guides and old Sports Illustrated magazines I have for sale.  The average price is $7.  The old media guides – football, basketball, baseball, and hockey – are gold mines for information you can’t get anywhere else.  I have a lot of them from the early 1990s before the advent of the internet.  It’s very nostalgic to look through these media guides, as well as the Sports Illustrateds to remember how the teams and players were viewed back then, and to find information that is hard to find today. For example, pick a player from before the age of the internet.  You may be able to find out his stats, but unless he was a Hall of Fame type player, you won’t get the detailed information you would get in these guides.   

Some of the highlights are a 1992 Boston Red Sox media guide featuring Roger Clemens on the cover, a 1991 Houston Oilers media guide with Warren Moon on the cover, a 1991 Chicago Bulls media guide with information about a young Michael Jordan inside, a 1992 Pittsburgh Pirates media guide with information about a young Barry Bonds inside, a 1992 Seattle Mariners media guide with information about a young Ken Griffey, Jr. inside, and Sports Illustrateds of Magic Johnson, Cal Ripken, and Sugar Ray Leonard. 

Please check out my amazon storefront at  http://www.amazon.com/shops/mikefrandsen.

I also have a lot of classic books and art books for sale.

Best 50 Players in Washington Capitals History

May 13, 2009

With Game 7 of the Washington Capitals – Pittsburgh Penguins NHL playoff series just a few hours away, I thought it would be a good time to make a list of the 50 greatest Washington Capitals of all-time.  Of course, this is my personal opinion, and it’s very subjective.  I’m sure there are a lot of Caps fans and hockey fans who know better than I do.  There aren’t a lot of current Caps on the list because so many of them are young and have only played a few years with the team.  There are great players like Sergei Fedorov who aren’t on they list because he only played two seasons for the Caps. 

Anyway, let’s remember that the Caps have had a lot of great players over the years.  Even though the Caps have generally underachieved in the playoffs, they did make the conference finals in 1990 and the Stanley Cup finals in 1998.  From 1983 to 1996 they only missed the playoffs once.  So this is the eighth time the Caps have made it to at least the second round of the playoffs.

  1. Alexander Ovechkin, F                       
  2. Rod Langway, D*+                       
  3. Peter Bondra, F                       
  4. Dale Hunter, F+
  5. Mike Gartner, F*+                       
  6. Scott Stevens, D
  7. Calle Johannson, D            
  8. Kevin Hatcher, D
  9. Olaf Kolzig, G
  10. Yvon Labre, D+
  11. Bengt Gustafsson, F                       
  12. Michal Pivonka, D
  13. Gaetan Duchesne, F
  14. Guy Charron, F                       
  15. Kelly Miller, F
  16. Mike Ridley, F
  17. Sergei Gonchar, D
  18. Ryan Walter, F
  19. Don Beaupre, G
  20. Dennis Maruk, F
  21. Dino Ciccarelli, F
  22. Sylvain Cote, D
  23. Doug Jarvis, F                       
  24. Adam Oates, F                       
  25. Craig Laughlin, F
  26. Al Jensen, G                                               
  27. Jaromir Jagr, F                       
  28. Al Iafrate, D
  29. Bob Carpenter, F
  30. Pete Peeters, G
  31. Jeff Halpern, F
  32. Larry Murphy, D
  33. Brendan Witt, D
  34. Pat Riggin, G                                               
  35. Dave Christian, F                       
  36. John Druce, F
  37. Chris Simon, F
  38. Mike Green, D                       
  39. Richard Zednik, F
  40. Alexander Semin, F
  41. Jim Carey, G
  42. Robert Picard, D
  43. Steve Konowalchuk, F
  44. Bobby Gould, F
  45. Andrei Nikolishin, F
  46. Alan Haworth, F
  47. Dmitri Khristich, F
  48. Joe Juneau, F
  49. Dainius Zubrus, F
  50. Clint Malarchuk, G     

*NHL Hall of Famer

+Caps Jersey Retired

Bold indicates currently with team.