Discover more from Shap Shots
On Shohei Ohtani, Tottenham Hotspur, and re-finding fandom. Plus, mailbag answers.
I went to a baseball game on Thursday it was awesome. I'll somehow connect it to hockey.
I miss real, hard-copy, paper tickets.
On my desk I have a ticket from a San Antonio Rampage-Houston Aeros game from March 3, 2012. It’s the first hockey game I went to with my wife Christina after we got married.
I still have a ticket from Game 2 of the 1998 World Series. I went with my dad, we sat near the right-field foul pole, and I vividly remember watching Paul O’Neill make this catch right in front of us.
I understand the reason paper tickets disappeared. It’s better for the environment, saves paper, and all that jazz.
But I wish I had a paper ticket from Thursday’s Detroit Tiger-Los Angeles Angles doubleheader. I would put that thing on my desk, I’d occasionally look at it and remember how cool it was to watch Shohei Ohtani pitch a complete game, one-hit shutout before adding a pair of home runs in the second game of a doubleheader.
I guess I could print this screen grab of the ticket.
I also have some poorly taken photos from my seat, but it’s not the same as having a printed ticket, which I can randomly look at from time-to-time and think, “Hey remember when baseball was really cool that day?”
Aside from prompting nostalgic thoughts about paper tickets, watching Ohtani pitch a gem was a good reminder of why I do this.
Too often sports writers get jaded by the job. It’s easy to get frustrated with a team or a player, we start to think it’s overly important, and therefore we are overaly important, when at the end of the day most became sports writers in some form because we wanted to see cool stuff happen and tell cool stories.
My writing improved when I re-discovered my sports fandom. I lost it for a bit, for a stretch from about 2012 to 2016, I felt very self-righteous about being a sports writer, I was a capital-J journalist who felt like I was overly-important and I didn’t root for teams. I had abandoned my team fandom in hockey, divorced myself from my die-hard New Jersey Devils fandom, and convinced myself that I “only rooted for great stories,”and nothing else.
It was stupid, I was stupid. Sports are supposed to be fun. Luckily I was saved by Tottenham.
I started watching the English Premier League passively during the 2015-16 season, got hooked near the end of the season and during the 2016-17 season I went from passive fan to fully-hooked on Spurs. It was great, I had something to be fanatical about, a place to be irrational, and had re-kindled sports fandom in general that I’d shoved away.
My writing improved. When you remove fandom, which I tried to do, you start to lose connection with your readers. As I discovered my my Spurs fandom, I re-connected with my own fanaticism, which helped me better write for the Stars fanatics. I changed how I wrote, both intentionally and unintentionally. I started writing for Stars fans they way I would want a Tottenham reporter to write for me.
When I write about hockey now, I write once again as more of a fan. I once again embrace my inner fanatic, because I found my fanaticism for an English soccer team.
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Sports are supposed to be our outlet for the weird, wacky, and unworldly. Watching Ohtani pitch in person, it was a slight reminder of that, and even though my general baseball fandom has slightly waned (I’m a bandwagon New York Mets fan, when they are good, I start watching…) it’s hard not appreciate sports royalty when it happens.
So thank you baseball, you were really cool this week. Thank you soccer, you’ve helped restore my overall sports passion.
Anyways, you came to this site to read about hockey. I owe you some mailbag answers, which many of you submitted last week. Let’s get to those.
The Griffins named Roope Koistinen the new goalie coach. I've always wondered - does a goalie coach actually matter that much? If it does have a significant impact, doesn't it seem like a fairly large gamble to put a coach with no AHL or NHL experience (playing or coaching) in place in a system that's tasked with developing Cossa and now Trey Augustine? (From Aaron)
Yes, goalie coaches matter, a lot. I think it’s become even more important in the AHL, which is one of the most volatile leagues in the world for goalies. Having a strong goalie coach, a confidant, that can help with the ups-and-downs of the AHL can be the difference between a prospect making it or not.
So I understand your concern about Koistinen, he’s never coached in North America. But I really like the hire, and some people I’ve spoken to in both Finland and North America also keen on his work he’s done developing young goalies in Finland with both Karpat and the national team program.
Sebastian Cossa needs more of a tactician to work with in his next goalie coach. He needs someone who will help create some more calmness in his game, and remove some of the wasted movements/energy. That’s something that Finnish goalies tend to be very good at, so for Cossa in general, Koistinen could be an ideal fit, even without North American experience.
I remember when Dallas hired DeBoer, many fans of Vegas posted comments about how the Stars PP would not be good, seemingly indicting Spott's handling of the VGK PP. But instead, Dallas was top 10 in the league. Do you see stylistic changes between the 2 teams to indicate that Spott changed his approach or adjusted? Or was it simply player execution was better in Dallas? (From Garret)
The Stars power play didn’t change much with the coaching staff change.
Dallas ran a rather traditional 1-3-1 power play, with Jason Robertson serving as a more focused trigger man on the flank both before and after Steve Scott came to Dallas.
Pete DeBoer and Scott came in and didn’t re-invent the wheel or change what was working. They also allowed Miro Heiskanen to grow into a full PP1 QB, letting him dictate more of what he’d like to do with the man advantage.
I don’t know why things did or didn’t work in Vegas the year prior. I wasn’t covering that team closely, but from a Dallas perspective, and talking to those within the Stars, Spott’s approach to the power play was more based on viewing what worked with his personnel rather than trying to force a certain system.
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Probably a 3rd rail type of question, but do you get a sense that the political climate in some states (coughFloridaTexascough) is impacting the players' signing decisions? (From Tiffany)
In general, no.
Professional athletes make a lot of money, and rarely, if ever, have I heard a player make a decision based on the political climate of a city/state as a reason to avoid a certain team.
What's a good nonfiction book recommendation and why?
Do you think the (Dallas Stars) organization genuinely believes they have a great blueline?
What team that isn't Vegas should Stars fans fear going into next year's playoffs?
What player do you expect to have very down year, either through regression or just someone you could see struggling to stay afloat for various reasons? (From David Castillo)
Let’s hit this bullet point style.
For sports non-fiction, read “The Arm” by Jeff Passan. Great look at how entire industries are built on something as simple as the human arm. Someday, personally, I’d love to write a similar book about goaltending. For non-sports, I recently re-read both “The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and “Made to Stick,” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Both those books explore why certain ideas work, certain ones don’t, and personally helped me with my writing.
The Dallas Stars believe they have a good blue line. They don’t believe it’s great. But they also don’t see solutions out there right now that would make it great at this moment.
The Colorado Avalanche.
I don’t want it to happen, because as long as he’s thriving I feel like my own athletic career has a slight chance. But at some point Joe Pavelski will slow down because of age. A more popular answer to this, I’m not sure how much Ryan Suter can keep up with the speed of the game going forward.
Dallas Stars season ticket holder - thinking about travelling to some away games. Top 5 picks - why? Where to stay and the best food. Thanks in advance (From Michael)
Good question. Here are five quick NHL trips I would build an itinerary around:
Montreal: the history within the arena, combined with the uniqueness of a city where the primary language isn’t English. Very cool experience all the way around.
Seattle-Vancouver: Find a way to take a long weekend where you can see a game in both Seattle and Vancouver. You can fly into once city, rent a car and drive to another. The arena in Seattle is one of the few truly unique arenas in the NHL, I love it, and that drive in the Pacific Northwest is is worth it.
Vegas: It’s a show. As long as you know that going in, it’ll be worth it. I don’t like how loud the bass is pumped in the building, that part feels like more of a night club than I would like, but overall they embrace entertainment throughout the game.
Buffalo-Toronto: This is another two-fer. Get some wings, see a game in Buffalo, talk loudly about how the goal definitely counted in 1999, and then go see Niagara Falls. Then drive to Toronto, visit the Hockey Hall of Fame, and see a Leafs game.
Colorado: This isn’t a commentary on the arena or the team, both are fine, but I really enjoy visiting Denver and the surrounding area. I’m a sucker for the mountains, it’s peaceful for me, so had to include it on this list.
As far as where to stay, I’m going to be the very cliched sports writer that lives for Marriott points. So I just look up Marriotts within walking distance of the arena.
The food story, that’s something I’d like to dive deeper into, because I can’t do it justice with a short list.
When you play goalie, do you have a jersey number? What number would you choose and why? (From Brent)
When I have and had a choice of a number I wear No. 36.
I wore No. 6 playing soccer as a kid, and when I started playing hockey No. 6 didn’t feel like a goalie number. I also wanted something slightly unique, everyone wore No. 30, so I picked No. 36.
I don’t have many superstitions, but I do have habits that revolve around the Nos. 3 and 6 when I play game. Before each center-ice face-off, I hit each post three times, six in totality, as a mental reset.
If NHL had relegation/promotion, how would some of the details like revenue sharing and AHL affiliation work? (JT)
It wouldn’t work.
I love promotion and relegation, but it won’t work in North America. To have promotion and relegation minor-league affiliation and the draft would have to be scrapped.
The closest thing I can create to promotion-relegation in the NHL is this plan, which I’ve laid out before.