Major League Baseball: A proposition to attract more fans

Happy Saturday…

Regardless if Major League Baseball has a 2020 season or not, this hockey enthusiast has a proposition for America’s pastime.

Baseball has struggled to attract new fans and their attentions over the last two decades. The games are the slowest paced and entail way too many unnecessary pauses compared to the other three major professional sports.

Let’s be honest – the NHL is the best, especially in person (I can be funny believe it or not).

While Major League Baseball has made minor adjustments and tried to help speed up the pace of its nine innings – why not play fewer games and on certain days.

I’d like to see baseball consistent a schedule that’s primarily four days a week for all 30 teams, which entails games on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That leaves teams with a minimum of 16 games per month and with room to market other options to fans.

The league currently plays 162 regular-season games.

Seriously?

Baseball players need that many games to decide who clinches a playoff berth or not? They’ve always been pre-madonnas compared to us hockey guys ( Again, I make myself laugh).

Why cut down the games and limit the schedule to Thursday through Sunday?

(Click To Listen)

The sport is accessible every single day from late March until the end of September. Think about it, there’s always an MLB game on TV for someone to watch every day and whether it’s a local game or one on national networks such as ESPN.

More on this take can be heard on my podcast: https://soundcloud.com/nhl_podcast_mckenna

There’s no sense of urgency for fans to attend games anymore with that amount of games spread out over parts of seven months for the regular season. There’s an attitude where’s it’s “Oh, I’ll eventually get to a game…” because there’s so many options and a feeling that its ‘always there.’

Or, there’s the circumstances and perspective which is there’s a group of fans where weekday games just aren’t realistic or worth attending to – also a big reason why these huge baseball cathedrals are half-empty more times than not.

Before fans realize – it’s September and they’ve probably been to one game, or they missed out on attending and purchasing an overpriced hot dog.

If the games were limited to just weekends then there’s a chance more fans would have something to look forward to during the week and more options to attend a better atmosphere at the ballpark.

MLB teams could also utilize those off days to market games and sell more tickets without that quick turnover of “there’s just another game tomorrow, anyway.”

It leaves fans with a sense of urgency to head out to the ballpark and enjoy themselves more.

This weekend plan offers more quality options for fans, while filling stadiums on a more consistent basis. In this case – less is more for the league.

A prime example is football.

Yes, the National Football League’s schedule is only 16 games spread out over 17 weeks, but there’s a reason why fans cherish and ‘look forward’ to watching and attending games on Sunday or Monday nights – they’re not happening four to seven times a week.

Major League Baseball wants answers and the league has its answer right here.

Kyle McKenna is an aspiring author and freelance writer who can be followed on Twitter @KMcKenna_tlt5

Grande

Excerpt – Grande

A brief excerpt remembering Richard Grande seven years later…

To this day I’ve never met a teammate, and friend, who was so passionate about the game of hockey and someone who dedicated himself to improving in any way possible – one day at a time. I believe I speak on behalf of my teammates that Richard Grande was a one of kind teammate, person and leader.

There are a few characteristics that come to mind when remembering Grande…(that’s how “Mickey” addressed him)

His work ethic on and off the ice. He put in the work to get stronger and excel in every facet of the game – and he enjoyed the challenges that came with it all – and that’s what separated him from a lot of us.

Grande would literally create something out of nothing and was so dynamic with the puck on his stick. He mesmerized everyone in the arena with his stickhandling abilities and probably costed a lot of our opponent defensemen ice time, plus forced numerous goaltenders to quit and pick up a new sport (goaltending equipment isn’t cheap either!)

The scarier part was how he easy he made it all look. Trust me – I witnessed it firsthand a plethora of times…I still shake my head and could thank him for a decent amount of apples I collected on the score sheets.

I was fortunate enough to be his linemate on two different clubs – I can remember at times thinking to myself, on a shift when he would try some sort of “dangle” no one would dare try in a game, “What f–k is he doing, just get the puck deep or pass it;” Well, after saying that to myself I’d meet him in the corner and say, “I don’t know how the f—k you do that…” – Because he had just scored a beaut’ and it was time to cele (as the boys say).

When we’d get together away from the rink and if he met some of my non-hockey buddies – they’d also refer to him as, “Grande, that’s your buddy with ‘the hair’ and he looks like he’s some sort of European soccer star, right?” – I’d laugh at the description because it was so true, and figured I’d share it…

There’s one other thing that comes to mind that I truly admired about Grande –  In my opinion, he made a commendable decision – he stepped away from the game to pursue his career and other aspects of life at a time when he probably could have kept playing and receiving offers to go to the higher levels.

Seriously, he was that good that and he could have played until he was probably 24 or 25…

He was more talented, and arguably more passionate about simply playing and excelling, than a lot of us that continued lacing up the skates to play competitively. He was passionate and a dreamer, but also realistic and mature.

To my friend, teammate, and roommate at the tournies – we miss that huge smile of yours, Grande.

P.S., Of course, I miss downing the cold ones with you too – Next time I have a Heineken it’s a toast to you.

Alex Ovechkin was born to be a Stanley Cup champion

There came a point in time when it seemed that Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin would never win a Stanley Cup championship.

One of hockey’s most well-known and brightest stars entered 2018 having won the Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP) three times and the Maurice Richard Trophy (league’s leading goal-scorer) on seven occasions. The only thing missing that all the critics pointed towards was that Ovi didn’t have any Stanley Cup rings to show for.

However, that all changed when Ovechkin and the Capitals reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2018.

Washington took to the ice in the final against an improbable Cinderella Story in the expansion, Vegas Golden Knights. While Vegas proved it could entertain all with more than just its team’s play on the ice and with the arena’s diverse pregame show, the Great 8 showed that he too could entertain on the big stage.

Hockey fans alike witnessed the Russian captain take his game and emotional leadership to a whole another level last month when he led the Capitals to their first-ever Stanley Cup championship.

There were moments throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs when it appeared that Ovechkin was a young teenager again when his priceless reactions on the Caps’ bench were similar to those rooting and cheering for No. 8, from the stands or their couches, to finally win what he deserved for over a decade.

Since Ovechkin entered the league in 2005, you almost felt like you grew up with the superstar and up until that moment when he first grabbed the Stanley Cup from NHL Commissioner, Gary Betman.

You could almost relate to him in the sense of all the ups and downs and adversity that he had encountered during his 13 years skating in the NHL. There were a handful of years when the Capitals were favorites to win the Cup but failed to even make it past the second round of the playoffs. It got to a point in time when even if you viewed one of the purest goal-scorers to ever lace up the skates as a rival, that you more than likely found a way to root for him during Washington’s run to this past year’s Stanley Cup Final.

Even Wayne Gretzky had chimed in on the action prior to the final’s puck drop.

The Great One was quoted in a memorable segment by NBC when broadcaster Mike Tirico sat down with the then Cup-less Ovechkin.

https://www.nbcsports.com/video/alex-ovechkin-title-stanley-cup-champion-would-mean-everything

Yet, all the speculation was put behind him in bittersweet fashion when Ovechkin skated around Las Vegas with Lord Stanley and in a year when no one expected the Capitals to finally win.

That was just the beginning, though.

Fans were treated to Ovechkin and his teammate’s memorable and entertaining celebrations during their ventures across North America with the hardest trophy to win in all of professional sports.

How could you not root for this guy, right?

‘Inspire Me’

While I haven’t been posting blog posts lately, I’m still posting over Instagram.

Thank you in advance for the follow, and have a great fall weekend…

A Writer’s Vacation

As I step outside the Boston airport, my brown leather writing suitcase and I are greeted by familiar sounds, smells and a cool New England breeze on a busy Friday afternoon. As we continue to find our way to the big blue Brockton and Plymouth bus, the thick Boston accents that we continue to hear make myself smile and laugh, just a bit.

It marks the third straight summer in July that we’ll be spending a writer’s vacation touring New England. The first stop is spending the weekend on the Cape. All aboard!

This time around we’ll be taking a two and half hour bus ride up to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Long car rides are great, aren’t they? Ha, this writing enthusiast doesn’t see a long and annoying bus ride, but an opportunity. An opportunity to start brain storming ideas for a new blog post, sports article and most importantly inspiration to build on a project that we started three years ago, too.

The annual and classic tour of New England entails visiting family and sightseeing on the Cape; going into Boston for a night and catching a Red Sox game at arguably the most beautiful Baseball Cathedral in all the land, Fenway Park; and then of course spending a few nights in Providence, Rhode Island with a fellow Hockey Brother and his fiancé.

Character, is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of this annual roadie. In fact, there’s so much character in all three of these areas of New England, but there’s something special that’s always drawn me towards the small city of Providence.

We enjoy Providence’s confusing one way and both hilly, plus extremely narrow road systems, the ones that are usually made of cobble stone or bricks; and then of course all of the historic homes and buildings with their rustic and wooden appearances. The floors always creek when you walk in to any establishment, really in most of these areas, but always in Providence. It’s a spooky feeling, which also reminds me that I’m ready to eat lobster rolls and consume New England clam chowder as well.

Pure bliss

Oh, and let’s not forget we’re enclosed by endless and vintage fences that can make one feel like their back in the early 1900’s.There’s usually a few graveyards that for some reason most people find intrigued to look at, no?

For whatever reason, I seem to do my some of (what I think could be considered) my best work in downtown Providence.

During the daylight, you can find me on Wickenden St and at the Coffee Exchange for hours and hours at time, writing. I seem to find myself in depth with some of the characters I’ve created in our ‘escape from reality,’ while constructing our own.

Maybe it’s the historic atmosphere and feel that brings out the best of me; like the stone and brick roads where you expect to see a horse shackle along in front of us at any given moment; or the cool New England breeze that’s incomparable to any other wind; or maybe it’s the accents and type of people who roam the streets of this small and almost forgotten city.

Or, maybe, it’s whatever is in the clam chowda’?

Until next summer, New England.

 

 

Visiting Baseball Stadiums On Your Bucket List

Major League Baseball is one month into its’ 2017 Regular Season.

And, it’s that time of the year when sports fan bases across North America not only mark their calendars for ballgames that they’re willing to pay to see in person, but also a time when fans look forward to potentially visiting a new ballpark to check off of one’s personal bucket list.

The Big Leagues — notorious for its beautiful baseball cathedrals that brighten up each respective city across the United States, and then of course, Toronto, Ontario. Like most, it’s a goal of mine to eventually watch a game in every MLB team’s current stadium.

Each park offers its’ own unique atmosphere, whether it’s because of a city’s loud and loyal crowd, or the ballpark’s architectural design. Some cathedrals are as old as Fenway Park or Wrigley Field (Early 1900’s), while other facilities are still new to the gameand are rewriting history for one’s respective ball club.

I’d like to share which MLB stadiums I’ve personally been to over the years, and also rank them in order starting with my “least” favorite ballpark. This sports fanatic has been to 11 different professional stadiums, in nine different cities, and has even witnessed an outdoor NHL game in one of them, too.

If you don’t know me personally — I have a passion for attending sporting events and at new stadiums, plus arenas, each year.

11.) Rogers Centre – Toronto Blue Jays 

Yes, the hockey lover made his way up North and to the home of the Hockey Hall Of Fame back in the summer of 2013. Toronto also pays homage to one of the coolest nicknames in all of Pro Sports — the Toronto Blue Jays.

While I admired, and was surprised, by the passion displayed and amount of Toronto fans that attended the Jays vs. Boston Red Sox game on that chilly plus overcast night, I was somewhat dissatisfied with my visit. Then, the stadium’s main concourse portrayed too much of the color grey, didn’t have good concession stands for food and I felt like I was walking around one of the old Meadowlands Pro Facilities (Giants Stadium & Continental Airlines Arena).

One aspect that didn’t help my reaction was the fact that the retractable roof was closed that night, which led to odd echo noises throughout the park; it had also been my first ballgame that was indoors. The stadium currently has WAY too many seats. The amount of fans that were in attendance that night would have sold out any other stadium, but the vast majority of empty seats (especially the outfield upper decks) made the park less appealing — and probably contributed towards those awkward echoes after a hit ball or just the crowd’s noise in general.

Though, in recent years the playoff games there do look pretty loud and awesome; especially with that hockey goal horn that sounds off after every Blue Jays home run.

Until next time, Toronto.

10.) Shea Stadium – New York Mets

Yes, my fellow New York Metropolitan fans are rolling their eyes and shaking their heads in disappointment. Even as a Mets guy, I will say that Shea Stadium overall as an entity wasn’t exactly appealing. However, the Shea crowd and atmosphere that was typically generated throughout the years was one of a kind. Let’s face the reality — Mets fans do it better than Yankees fans.

There was nothing like watching a game on TV (back in the early 2000’s for the Mets), or being at Shea during the night while Hall Of Fame Catcher Mike Piazza approached the plate to bat etc. Shea defined what it meant to have an electric atmosphere at the ballpark, as the consistent sounds of cowbells and “Lets-Go-Mets” chants reminded all fans. Still, as one would walk around the stadium and take in the sights from the seats — it felt like a ballpark that was incomplete.

Behind the outfield fence was too open, and didn’t entail any good sights or skyline — other than a parking lot. Shea had its’ moments, but Citi Field was much needed…

9.) Tropicana Field — Tampa Bay Rays

It’s a shame that I often heard (in the past) that Tropicana Field is nothing special nor worth visiting. After recently going to the ballpark for the first time, I strongly disagree and can prove those comments wrong.

The Trop has had numerous renovations over the past few seasons and is absolutely worth checking out. The navy blue, sky blue and gold colors make for an appealing appearance around the venue, there’s plenty of good food choices and Tampa staples, too. The roof is lower than most indoor parks, and it’s an average temperature inside of 75 degrees. There are also a few cool standing room areas to spectate at while grabbing brewskies with the boys or family.

The park is also located in downtown St. Petersburg, which may be the most underrated city in America, so there’s plenty of places to eat or drink at before/after that are within walking distance too. It’s a fun experience, there’s no doubting that.

8.) Yankee Stadium (New) — New York Yankees

The new Yankee Stadium, which opened up in 2009, does not have the same character as the old Yankee Stadium. The sounds and atmosphere that the old “Stadium” had to offer were lost in the process of building a new and over-the-top modern ballpark.

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Its main concourse is nicer and it’s much more convenient to walk around for fans to explore what the new park has to offer to fans — other than the game itself which is being played. Going to the New Yankee is more about the overall experience with all the new and delicious food venues, plus different standing room areas the park entails.

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I still think there are too many seats and the park always looks more than half empty; but it still makes for a good time with friends and has panned out to be a good social experience for all.

7.) Progressive Field – Cleveland Indians 

The Tribe.

Now, don’t take this the wrong way Cleveland, but I have only been to 11 different Major League Stadiums and the home of the Indians falls at number seven for this list. Though, the ballpark was one of the first “new” and innovative fields for the modern era. Originally, Jacobs Field (1994), the design for this ballpark was original and admirably appealing.

The Indians’ left field wall became almost a “mini Green Monster” (Boston Red Sox); and entailed smaller hanging porches over the right-field wall. It’s a cool place to watch a game and take in all of those sounds and sights baseball lovers live for.

For me, I watched a game there vs. the New York Yankees back in 2010 and was about 20 rows behind home plate. That was an ideal seat for this stadium, especially with the sun setting behind the outfield on a beautiful night during late July in Cleveland. It’s a fun and family-oriented experience, but it could use some renovations on the main concourse etc.

6.) AT&T Park – San Francisco Giants 

While I’ve never actually watched a game at the home of the San Francisco Giants, I did take a tour of the (then Pac Bell Park) as a youngster. The park opened in 2000 and, wow, was this one of a kind and a major upgrade from the club’s former venue, Candle Stick Park.

The park is right on the Bay, which is not only an incredible view but also makes for one heck of an aurora for the city plus park itself. Home runs that sail over the right-field wall typically land in “Mcovey’s Cove,” where paddle boarders and kayaks duel to pick up the valuable souvenir from the water. Other subtle and cool characteristics about this park would be the “old school-like” scoreboard behind center field, the huge Coca-Cola bottle and baseball glove behind left field and of course the brick wall which extends over the right-field fence.j

The pictures of this park speak for itself, but I can assure you that this would be a fantastic place to attend a game. It has the ideal feel of a vintage meets modern day park.

5.) Yankee Stadium (Old) – New York Yankees

The Old Yankee Stadium was classic. There’s no other way to put it.

Even as an “anti-Yankee fan” growing up, I absolutely loved going to games at the Old Yankee Stadium; aka. The Stadium. Fans alike can agree on the fact that they probably got goosebumps every time they entered Old Yankee; whether it was crossing the bridge and listening to the poor man playing baseball songs on his flute, or the sounds of cheers that echoed in an uncanny fashion around the park — that stadium was unique. There was no better sound than hearing the New York crowd uplift in a roar after a bomb of a home run was hit towards the short distanced right field porch; and that moment before the ball finally flew over the fence – that same roar would change into a sound of fans holding their breath for a split second, as if they weren’t sure if it was going to actually make it out of the park or not.

And, of course, no one did it better on the P.A. than Bob Shepard.

4.) Citi Field – New York Mets

Most Major League Baseball fans can confirm that Citi Field was, and is, the better of the two for New York City’s newest ballparks. Citi offers a great experience to all and has a family-oriented feel to it as well. It’s very convenient to explore the ballpark and all of the nukes and crannies the venue has to offer. Citi may just, in fact, have the best food to offer out of all of the stadiums across North America. Hint, the Keith Hernandez Tex-Mex Burger is the best cheeseburger I’ve ever had…

https://www.instagram.com/p/BGw6CW9w85_/?taken-by=kylemckenna5

It’s architectural design is very appealing, and the Coca-Cola Right Field Porch is an underrated variable which the park has to offer. While Shea was more electric, Citi has begun writing its own history and has a new generation of dedicated and loud Mets fans.

https://www.instagram.com/p/5f4pN_Q84H/?taken-by=kylemckenna5

The outside of the stadium has an old-school appearance, which any sports fan can appreciate. Yet, I still feel like there are just too many seats in some of these new ballparks, which can make the stadiums look, well, rather empty at times. Citi is a victim of that, and the organization and City also need to renovate the area surrounding the venue. There’s potential to have the best set up with a small city-like-town outside of the stadium to enhance that electric New York Mets atmosphere.

3.) Citizens Bank Park – Philadelphia Phillies

The City Of Brotherly Love may not always have the most likable professional sports clubs plus fan-bases, but boy do those organizations sure know how to make a sporting event an enjoyable and memorable experience for all the right reasons.

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From the eye, the park’s overall display and design is gorgeous. It almost redefined what a Major League Baseball Stadium should, and always should’ve, portrayed. Every minor detail there can be appreciated. Also, it’s more than convenient to get to, especially in comparison to its’ rivals — both of New York’s stadiums. Parking isn’t just easy, but it’s fun too. They have special areas with over-hangers for fans to tailgate, and X-Finity Live is just a short walk away. If you’ve never been interested in going to a baseball game — go to Philly. You won’t regret it. Just make sure you take advantage of what it actually has to offer other than the game itself.

Additionally, I dig the park’s Diamond Club. That experience is worth investing in. Your seats could be located in various sections which surround home plate, and it’s there where you can take in the true appreciation of what these cathedrals have to offer. Also, after the Phillies hit a home run, a replica and giant lit up Liberty Bell sounds off and swings back and forth…

P.S. Go to Chickie’s N’ Petes, which is a five-minute drive from the stadium. It’s the perfect spot to socialize before or after a game, and for all ages. Get the crab fries…make it two orders.

Also, if you’re looking for a good Philly Cheese Steak — don’t waste your time trying to debate between Pat’s or Geno’s — go to Tony Luke’s, or Jim’s on South St.

2.) PNC Park – Pittsburgh Pirates 

First and foremost, let me begin this entry by saying Pittsburgh is an awesome and beautiful city. I feel as though it never gets the credit it deserves. It’s a passionate sports city, which is also home to arguably the best MLB ballpark the league has to offer. And, for starters, it’s not overwhelmingly big or has that bulky appearance like most parks portray, currently. It’s overall structure and design is very ideal for the modern era of baseball in my mind. There’s not a bad seat in the house, as the old saying goes.

PNC Park is located at a vibrant location in downtown Pittsburgh, which is surrounded by plenty of fun bars and restaurants. I visited this park back in 2010 and to this day it sits at number two on my list for favorite MLB stadiums. It’s a colorful stadium which is complemented by its scenic city and river view which is probably the best background a stadium can offer. It’s a small park, so numerous home runs a game are likely too. The fans are dedicated and knowledgeable of their “Bucs,” and make the experience that much better inside and outside of the ballpark.

1.) Fenway Park  – Boston Red Sox

Since 2012, I venture up to Boston every summer and one very big reason why is because of Fenway Park. Home of the Boston Red Sox.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BIWAwziB097/?taken-by=kylemckenna5

Sure, this is a historic landmark and park in a passionate and unique city, but there’s much more to Fenway than what you see on TV or read online. The Green Monster, in left field, alone might be the most unique wonders professional sports has to offer. Every kid grows up dreaming of not only hitting a home run at a Big League Park but over the Monster at Fenway Park. It’s simply iconic.

https://www.instagram.com/p/oUHsfgQ8_Z/?taken-by=kylemckenna5

The park is tiny compared to other stadiums, but that’s another characteristic that makes this landmark so special. The green and red colors that fill Fenway compliment that vintage feel you were already expecting, and the architecture doesn’t get any more classic than that park. Similar to Old Yankee, you’ll get bigger goosebumps as you head to downtown Boston and Fenway Park. The atmosphere is a thrill like no other, and you may find yourself quickly becoming a Sawx fan before you even enter the park.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Zq3iOEQ8-M/?taken-by=kylemckenna5

Top Five MLB Baseball Stadiums Still On The Bucket List

Minute Maid Park – Houston Astros

Miller Park – Milwaukee Brewers

Dodger Stadium – Los Angeles Dodgers

Camden Yards – Baltimore Orioles

Wrigley Field – Chicago Cubs

Bryan Bickell Retires On An Admirable Note

The 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs have been underway for over a week now, and the quest for the Cup is the biggest spotlight in all of sports at the moment. However, on the final day of the NHL’s 2017 regular season there were a number of notable stories that made headlines.

One of which involved Carolina Hurricanes forward, Bryan Bickell.

The three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) back in November, and it was unknown if the 31-year-old would ever be able to return back onto the ice to continue his NHL career.

Though, Bickell made the admirable comeback and rejoined the Canes in February, which was just in time for Carolina’s push for the playoffs. While the Hurricanes didn’t qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the mood surrounding the organization was an emotional one and all smiles during the club’s final regular season game on April 9 — at the Philadelphia Flyers.

The former Blackhawk announced that the contest vs. Philadelphia would be his final NHL game, so that he could officially retire and battle his MS disease. Well, Bickell’s final memory of playing in the NHL will last a lifetime, and for his fellow teammates as well.

The Hurricanes and Flyers entered overtime tied at 2-2 and then entered a shootout to decide who would win the matchup. Note, each team’s coaching staff originally select three players to shoot. Bickell, had never scored a shootout goal during his career, and had only one attempt before entering the contest that day…

Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters decided to chose Bickell to shoot first for Carolina in the shootout. (See Video Below)

As you saw, Bickell’s special moment did in fact happen. First up, he smoothly skates down and beats Flyers netminder Steve Mason with a beauty of snipe. An exciting moment for not just the Hurricanes and Bickell, but for Bickell’s wife and young daughter it the stands at Wells Fargo Arena, also.

Bickell’s teammates’ reactions speak for itself, too.

No, it’s not an ideal way to retire, but what a way to put the icing on the cake for Bickell. A ten-year-career officially came to a close, and with good spirits, in the City of Brotherly Love.

Congrats to Bickell on a successful NHL career and best of luck, my friend.

Hockey can have an uncanny way about giving back to its’ players…

 

P.K. Subban’s Memorable Return To Montreal

Former Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban returned back to Montreal, on March 1, and for the first time since the 2013 Norris Trophy winner was traded by the Canadiens to the Nashville Predators. And, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Subban, age 27, received a warm welcome from the Bell Center’s sold out and faithful hockey fan-base.

However, what was unanticipated was that the Montreal organization displayed an honorable tribute video toward’s Subban and his memorable seven-year tenure with the club, and right before both the United State’s and Canada’s National Anthem’s would be performed. Typically, a team waits until the puck is dropped during a stoppage of play.

The Ontario native, of Jamaican decent, was then overwhelmed with emotion after hearing the Montreal crowd not only cheer his name for almost three straight minutes, but the enduring standing ovation he received, too. Keep in mind, the Queen was also in attendance to see one of her favorite Montreal players of all-time.

Fans alike didn’t need to be present in Montreal to get goosebumps on their skin for Subban’s first return back to Montreal, either.

 

A classy move by the Canadiens to say at the very least, but an even classier ‘Welcome Home’ from the Montreal faithful. While it appeared ownership and management wanted the colorful ambassador for the Habs “out,” it’s evident that Subban’s impact not only on the ice hit home for Montreal fans, but his continuous and heroic efforts in the Canadian community played a huge role from the fan’s perspective as well.

Prior to the notable return on the ice, Subban received a Meritorious Service Decoration, from Governor General David Johnston, for the star D’mans $10-million dollar fundraising project which Subban had committed towards the Montreal Children’s Hospital before being traded last offseason.

It’s admirable what type of affect Subban had on the entire Montreal fan-base from his display of passion both on and off the ice for his former city and club.

Though, his reaction and emotions speak much louder to prove that the sport of hockey is more than just a game…but rather a lifestyle that will always welcome home, memories.

Penguins’ Phil Kessel Brings Stanley Cup To Sick Kids Hospital

In 2009, when NHL all-star forward Phil Kessel arrived in Toronto to play for the Maple Leafs he promised the Canadian city a Stanley Cup Championship.

Kessel spent six seasons with the Original Six franchise, but the Leafs were unsuccessful in bringing the Toronto fan-base its first Cup since 1967. And, let’s just say Leafs Nation borderline ran Kessel out of town by 2015.

Though, the goal scorer recently earned a Stanley Cup ring by hoisting Lord Stanley with his new team this past June, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Still, Kessel kept his word by in fact bringing the Stanley Cup back to Toronto. The Madison, Wisconsin native considers the city his second home, and was sure to share his Day With The Cup with young fans at The Hospital for Sick Children.

Not bad for a guy who took a lot of heat and seemed to always be in the negative spotlight from a majority of Leafs fans plus the Toronto media, right?

After a team wins the Stanley Cup, each player gets to spend one day with it during the summer and at locations of their choice. The cancer survivor had been “very involved” with the Hospital for Sick Children during his tenure with the Maple Leafs, and didn’t forget about the smiles from some of his biggest fans.

A class act and admirable move by a player who was once shipped out of one of the toughest places to play for all of hockey, in Toronto.

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I Applaud Steven Stamkos

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Unrestricted-free-agency (UFA) in professional sports — another variable in a sports fan’s version of a never ending drama and entertaining soap-opera.

Fans have been crushed after seeing some of their favorite star-athletes leave the name on the front of the jersey for another city’s sports franchise, and one that could offer more money to a player than we’d even know what to do with.

Some of the well-paid celebrities who lace up the skates or throw on a pair of cleats go onto live up to the high expectations in their respective sport, while others drown in the pressure and were more than likely overpaid, because “the market was in their favor” at the time.

It used to be a common theme to see some of the all-time greats start and finish a career with one team. Even if they never won a Super Bowl or Stanley Cup — he almost received more praise from a fan-base, because he remained loyal to your city’s colors, and they were dedicated.

It’s a new era though, and it’s a rare commodity to see athletes retire with the club that drafted them, and once established that former first-round-pick as the face of something almost larger than life itself. Now, it’s considered a career noteworthy accomplishment if one were to finish his pro career with one organization.

Still, there is hope.

Steven Stamkos was drafted first-overall during the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning, and soon blossomed into one of the NHL’s best players the sport currently has to offer. Stamkos headed into the summer of 2016 as one of the most coveted UFA’s in recent memory, and rumors about the Ontario native potentially leaving the Lightning to play for his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs heated up as early as spring of 2015.

The Stamkos sweepstakes plus potential return to Toronto circled and hovered around the team’s captain all season, especially when the Bolts visited the Air Canada Centre. While Tampa general manager Steve Yzerman and NO. 91 had been reportedly negotiating a contract extension from time to time — it seemed that the Lightning weren’t going to have enough money in their pockets to keep Stammer in the Sunshine State…

Leading to more rumors and speculation that it was almost automatic that Stamkos would be skating for one of Canada’s Original Six franchises, that could offer the center few extra million dollars per year – on a long term deal.

Bolts fans dreaded July 1, 2016, but Tampa’s captain had hinted on occasion that he did want to play for a club who was a contender. Still, history shows that professional sports is a business, and that money typically wins out.

To a surprise, and before July 1 could even arrive, the 26-year-old made the decision that he would take less money to play for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“It’s not often that a player gets the chance to spend his career in one organization and I am hopeful that this agreement sets me on that path with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Most importantly, I look forward to working with my teammates, coaches and our management in our pursuit of winning a Stanley Cup.”

In case you didn’t know, the Lightning have been one of the league’s best teams for the past three seasons, and the future looks even brighter in Tampa now that its captain has remained loyal to the name on the front of the sweater.

An admirable act from a professional athlete, who turned down an opportunity to earn a substantial increase in his salary, and not to mention revenue that would have came from numerous sponsorship opportunities in a Hockey City with Toronto.

“This organization, starting with (Lightning owner Jeff) Vinik and Steve Yzerman, the coaching staff, it’s people that I believe in. I want to win. We’ve been close in Tampa. When I said I wanted to be here throughout the season, I really truly meant that.”

A leader leading by example, perhaps? Putting winning and a team belief before personal gain.

Stamkos was already an ideal image for not only an NHL team, but a prime example of good role model in all of professional sports. The Olympic Gold Medal winner is always humble and well-spoken, in addition to setting the right example in the Tampa community.

By him publicly acknowledging that he has a desire to finish his career with one NHL team and in Tampa — separates himself from other pro athletes that wear the “C” on their uniform.

A leader whose talent can easily be spotted by all, but a unique player who takes care of the little things behind the scenes on the ice while making all of his teammates around him better.

The definition – of what it means to be the face of a franchise.

I applaud you, Steven Stamkos.

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