Everyone is starting to pay attention to “March Madness”. President Obama has made his picks public for the NCAA Basketball Tournament. The country will lose millions of dollars in productivity due to three consecutive weekends of betting on basketball games.
I enjoy this time of year. As a former sports talk show host, I used to know everything about everything (at least that’s what sports talk hosts believe, trust me on that). I followed every sport. I enjoyed the NCAA tourney. Nowadays, I admit I don’t know a heck of a lot about anything other than the Admirals and the AHL.
I start my first blog in months by writing that because you often hear about “gym rats” in basketball…the guys that are always on the court working on their games. We certainly have the equivalent in hockey. Certainly, you’ve heard of “rink rats.” Cal O’Reilly falls into that category. You know why the game seems to move slower for Cal…he’s always working. He “feels” the game so well. He knows where pressure’s coming from, he knows where his teammates are. I don’t think Cal has ever missed an optional practice in his time with the Admirals. He’s regularly the first player on the ice and the last to leave.
O’Reilly is on the verge of passing Darren Haydar for the most assists in Admirals AHL history. Darren had 166, Cal entered the Mar. 18 game with 164 (10th all-time in Milwaukee history). Like Haydar, I don’t know if O’Reilly will get a fair look from a NHL team. I do know that it has been a joy having him in Milwaukee.
I’m shocked and happy for former Admirals star Tony Hrkac. The Concordia University-Wisconsin head hockey coach has come out of retirement to play the rest of the season, including playoffs, for the Houston Aeros. Hrkac told us on Milwaukee Admirals Center Ice that he was approached in the summer about coming back for the playoffs. The question was posed again at Christmas and he started to prepare, just in case. He hasn’t played since the 2004-05 season with Milwaukee. I wish him the best. Tony has long been one of my favorites, even before I met him. I remember well the great teams at North Dakota led by Gino Gasparini. Hrkac, Ed Belfour, Bobby Joyce…they had tons of stars on those teams.
I love the fact the NHL is on NBC every Sunday. However, I do have a question with the scheduling: Why is the game always on at 11:30 a.m. in Milwaukee? Can’t we find a time when people are home from church? Can’t we move snowboarding or figure skating for a week or two? I understand that everyone who watches snowboarding probably doesn’t wake up before noon, but it sure would be nice to see some teams out west. How about Nashville and Columbus? How about Detroit and Chicago? NBC telecasts reach the largest audience compared to the other hockey outlets, and I appreciate that. But, I’d like to see a team other than the Rangers every so often.
Drew MacIntyre needs seven wins to set the single-season record for the Admirals. Brian Finley won 36 games in 2004-05, Pekka Rinne equaled the mark last season.
By the way, Rinne should be the NHL’s Calder Trophy winner as Rookie of the Year. Nashville is close to hosting a first-round playoff series due in large part to the former Admirals star. No offense to Steve Mason of Columbus and Blake Wheeler of Boston, both of whom have enjoyed terrific seasons, but Pekka’s my guy. Of course, this is where I’m obligated to say that I have ZERO say in the matter.
There are seven home games left and big promotions at each. Bring a friend that normally doesn’t go to games. You’ll get them hooked in the battle for playoff seeding.
Until next time…Go Admirals!!!