Spent the whole weekend upstate in Ulster County. Not far from NYC in terms of distance (about two and a half hours), but a universe away in all other respects. A little hiking, a little road-tripping, a little “Holy bejeesus, look at that foliage!,” a little cooking this bizarre-o smoked pork roast stuffed with a length of kielbasa — nice. Yesterday’s activities included stops at two tremendous roadhouse taverns, both of which had Nascar on the TV, which was a bit of a kick in the head. I mean, if I walk into a bar on an October Sunday, I should be able to expect to see football and/or baseball, am I right? But when in Rome and all that, so I looked at the TV and made grunts of appreciation whenever there was a crash, which as we all know is the whole point.
At least nobody laughed me out of the bar when I asked if they knew how the Brewers/Phillies game had ended. But I knew better than to ask if anyone had seen any of the season-opening NHL games. That’s right, while you were focusing on baseball and football and maybe Nascar, the NHL season got started over the weekend, with four games in Prague and Stockholm (sort of like MLB opening its season in Japan, only with lots of pickled herring instead of sushi). My annual ESPN season-preview column won’t run until Thursday, when the rest of the season starts, because at least three teams are slated to unveil their new alternate jerseys between now and then, but here are some initial observations based on the four European games:
• All four teams playing over the weekend wore “NHL Premiere” commemorative patches. The ones worn by the Sens and Pens featured the word “Stockholm” and a Swedish flag motif, while the ones worn by the Rangers (who, in keeping with longstanding team custom, put the patch on their shoulder instead of their chest) and Lightning had the word “Prague” and a Czech flag motif.
• Remember how the new Reebok jerseys last year had those awful scoop hems, and how the Rangers custom-tailored their uniforms to create a more traditional straight hemline? Reader Alex Argon notes that they don’t appear to be doing that this year.
• Reader Kelly Phillips actually attended one of the Sens/Pens games in Stockholm and filed the following report: “I saw more bizarre jerseys than one could even imagine. Just about every NHL team, and every version of the Sens and Pens, German teams, even the Belfast Giants. But, nothing could compare to this sighting — note the Frankfurt Lions jersey being worn under the Leafs sweater. Honorable mention goes to the guy wearing a Sundin jersey and a kilt!” Which would no doubt have been a huge hit in those roadhouse bars I was in.
Friendly Reminder: This Friday and Saturday will mark the debut of the Forewords (my lecture/slideshow collaboration with Liz Clayton), as we open two shows for the Magnetic Fields. We don’t know how we’re going to be received by an audience that’s expecting to see an opening band, so it’d be nice to pack the house with some friendly faces, if you get my drift. Tix for the Friday show in Minneapolis are available here, and tix for the Saturday show in Madison can be had here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: On the subject of Titans defenders having strings hanging off of their jerseys, Chance Wilmoth notes that Pacman Jones used to do it. Anyone know if he’s still doing this in Dallas? Also, Chance Wilmoth reports that Tony Brown had his strings hanging out of his sleeves yesterday. … Awesome T-shirt concept here (great find by Adam Reiffen). … According to this article, one reason Vince Dooley changed UGA’s pants from silver to white for several years was because a student cheer of “Go you silver britches” sounded vulgar when chanted rapidly (with thanks to Brent Hardman). … Fans of the old Mattell handheld football games will enjoy the cool box illustrations shown here and here. Plus the same site is showcasing some basketball and hockey designs (big thanks to Paul Ricciardi). … The hockey-themed rock band the Zambonis will be performing at the NHL Face-Off Event in Times Square this Friday. “We’re already debating which of our 350 hockey jerseys we’ll don onstage,” writes drummer Mat Zamboni (who’s got a Whalers-patterned kit). “One cool perk has been receiving some vintage throwback tees, including an elusive Hartford Whalers tee (that’s me). I don’t know the reason official Whalers throwback gear has been impossible to find, but this gives fans at least a little hope.” … On Friday I asked if this character might have been the prototype mascot who lost an “applause vote” to Pat Patriot during halftime of a 1979 game. Based on this account (sent my way by Bob Jones), which describes the prototype character as “a colonial-era superhero,” I’d say we have a match. … I’ve probably learned more oddball factoids from Jeremy Brahm in the last two years than from everyone else put together. Here’s the latest one: “In sumo wrestling, when a yokozuna loses a match to a makunouchi-level wrestler, the crowd tosses their cushions in an act of celebration. Now the sumo association is trying to put a stop to this practice by replacing the old cushions with new ones that are held together with rope.” … Minor tweaking for Tennessee hoops, going from this to this (with thanks to Luke Pellegra). … Reprinted from Friday’s comments: Nike is now making prosthetics. … TNOB (team name on back) alert: the Covington (Kentucky) Catholic Colonels (with thanks to Craig McGlone). … Amare Stoudemire may have to wear goggles (with thanks to Dominick Carfello). … Gorgeous (and, alas, very overpriced) jacket here (with thanks to Scotty Johnson). … Reprinted from Friday’s comments: I knew the bicentennial patch had been worn in Super Bowl X, but I didn’t realize it had also been worn five months earlier in the 1975 Hall of Fame Game. Larry Weiderecht says the other team in that game, the Bengals, also wore it. … Bob Wilmot came across this amazing photo on eBay (dig that facemask) and soon found his way to the seller’s Photobucket page, which is loaded with old wire service pics. … Even high schools have helmet carts, although that one, from Lakeland High School in Florida, doesn’t have a facemask (thanks to Wayne Koehler). … Back in May, I was told that the Saints’ old Sir Saint spokescharacter would be revived. And sure enough, he’s back — sort of. Not nearly as much charm as before. Plus his hands have five fingers — a massive faux pas, since everyone knows cartoon characters have only four fingers, it’s the law! … Jordan Eichenblatt notes that an SMU player — No. 7 in this photo — had a missing nameplate on Saturday … Looks like Minnesota has a different collar this year compared to last year. Anyone know more about the rest of the jersey? … I don’t know anything about Canadian politics, but Jean Gagnier tells me that this is Stéphane Dion, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada (the official opposition), wearing an old CCM Canadiens jersey. … I think we’ve shown this map before, but just in case (with thanks to L.I. Phil). … Great job by Ryan Perkins, who captured two Eli Manning helmets in the same shot. … We’ve been talking about the maddening inconsistencies in the Bengals’ side panels for years, but Nick Waeltz captured a particularly vivid example of it. … Good little article here about the designer who created the NHL Winter Classic logo, among other marks (with thanks to Steve Stovall). … Matt Garza was wearing earplugs yesterday (thanks, Vince). … “I spent this past weekend at the Skytop Lodge in Canadensis, Pennsylvania, in the Poconos,” writes Bill Burke. “While in the activity room, I spotted this jersey hanging on the wall with an accompanying letter, which was from a woman whose husband played hockey for the lodge team during the 1930-31 season. She was clearing out his personal effects and thought that the lodge would like the sweater returned. It is basic but classic, and I only wish I could have seen if it had a number on the back.” … Bruce Bates took one of those tablecloths sold in a lot of NFL home party kits and customized the end zones to match the field from Super Bowl LXI. “I made the goalposts out of straws and Play-doh, and the end zones were combos of wrapping paper and carefully cut fonts,” he says. … David Greenwald notes that Angels catcher Mike Napoli has conflicting logos. … New anniversary patch for the Timberwolves. … Odd scene in yesterday’s Dolphins/Chargers game, where Ronnie Brown spent part of the game wearing these weird partial gloves that only covered his thumbs while leaving the rest of his fingers bare. Anyone know more about this?