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Saturday, December 31, 2011

The East Cup Blog: An Overview

(SPECIAL NOTE: This is a non-fictitious post on this blog)

So you’ve opened this post for the first time and, no doubt, the first thing on your mind is this: “what in the toaster strudel is this?”

Or something like that.

The short answer is that this is a parody/commentary about the hockey world. A world I have been writing about- for real- for the past ten years in various capacities. Since the National Hockey League is run so well (</sarcasm>), every fan has their own ideas on just how the hockey world should look like.

This is mine.

Essentially the East Cup is fanfiction and a commentary for the game of hockey. Thus, it bares mentioning that this blog is entirely fictitious (except for this post). So anything you read here is NOT news on your favourite team or player.

To start, it's important to understand that while there are fictitious players involved, and the real players are not entirely like their real life counterparts, the characters of this narrative are not the players, but the teams. Each team has their own defining characteristic that drives their story, with their own nuances as the story develops. Note that I'm not talking about identities such as "they're a lunchpail offence" or "they're a big physical team", because those identities change as the teams' player personnel change. No, I'm talking about characteristics that fuel fan perceptions about the team, such as "they're the league powerhouse", "they're pretenders" or "they're the league laughingstock", because those characteristics don't change every season.

Most of the stories will be told in the following manner: fictitious news articles penned by (mostly) fictitious journalists and "deeper look" segments called "The East Cup Chronicles", which are "slice of life" moments that can't be covered by normal news articles. Unsigned articles default to the person assigned as the de facto main character of the Chronicles, an involved fan by the name of Jasmine Bryar, who is herself a blogger in this world.

The source for the games for the blog is NHL 07 (my favourite of the hockey video games) so the base player and league setup is from that game. From there, though, there isn’t just one major league- there’s four "main" leagues, all of which play seasons of around 50 games (the East plays 50). First, I'll introduce the East Cup, the circuit that will provide the bulk of the stories. Here are the teams, in order of reputation:


  • Buffalo Sabres: The "Yankees" of hockey- they have the most money, the most resources, the best academy, the most clout and, subsequently, the most success. Just like the Yankees, the Sabres are loved by their fans and loathed by everyone else, and even if the team isn't doing particularly well, there is always the perception that they will be a superteam. They aren't exactly the blog's antogonist but they're certainly the one everyone has their eyes on.
  • Quebec Nordiques: Buffalo's arch-rival. If the Sabres are the Yankees, the Nordiques are the Red Sox, though without the Curse of the Bambino. Just like Buffalo, they have comparable resources, finances and player production, but "something" always seems to stop them from getting over the top. Predictably, their games with Buffalo are hockey's most heated and have fallen victim to violence, with both sets of fans blaming the other for instigating it.
  • New York Islanders: Their status here is reversed with the Rangers in real life- they're New York's pre-eminent team, playing out of Madison Square Garden with all the glitz and the glamour that goes along with it. Firmly behind the Nordiques and Sabres in terms of success, but a worthy rival. They have the league's most unappeasable fanbase.
  • Toronto Maple Leafs: Much better run than their real life counterparts because they're owned by the fans, who took action after Harold Ballard's destructive policies of the 1980s. They're just like the Islanders in terms of success- right behind Quebec and Buffalo, but a worthy rival. The Leafs have maintained their rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens here.
  • Montreal Canadiens: They're still, technically, hockey's most successful team but the Canadiens haven't won a Cup since 1980 and are constantly fighting to regain their lost legend. They're competitive, but rarely ever a dominant power. It's here where the "middle of the pack" starts.
  • Nashville Predators: The "new kids on the block", the Predators have made a lot of noise since being founded in 1998. They're the team most poised to join "the Big Four" in terms of resources and clout but they still have a lot of work to do to get there.
  • Dallas Stars: Just like Nashville, only that they're not all that new. The Stars are also on the rise but they have their work cut out for them if they want to break through the pack.
  • Chicago Blackhawks: Like Montreal in that they're the "wounded legends" and that they're "middle of the pack"- however, their path to glory isn't orthodox. The Blackhawks won't follow convention in any area of hockey, be it in coaching or recruiting, and often make many gambles. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but they always have a story.
  • Philadelphia Flyers: Once the league's whipping boys, the Flyers are desperately trying to break out of their doldrums. This season marks their first in their attempt to right their ship, being bold in the signing of Rick Nash to give Sidney Crosby and youngster Kevin Stills the perfect compliment. The grouping of "Crosby, Stills and Nash" will make magic on the ice and will be so close that they'll have their own stories off the ice, documented in a sidebar series known as "The Chronicles of Crosby, Stills and Nash".
  • Brampton Ravens: Once an underdog, the team changed owners five years ago and started building up resources to compete with the upper echelon and have proven to be quite competitive. The team shares a geographic rivalry with the Leafs, but, given their prior history as doormats, it's only recently have they started being taken seriously, although no one would tab them to be a powerhouse just yet.
  • Tampa Bay Lightning: The "chameleon" team. The Lightning are always wheeling and dealing, and very rarely ever keep anyone on the team for very long. The only players they kept for any length of time were those who led them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2005, but now even they are gone. With so much turnover, it's hardly a surprise they're not tabbed to be a dominant power.
  • Sarnia Falcons: Similar in size to Peterborough, but unlike the Pirates, the Panthers don't shy away from the small town label. They embrace their label, and are often known for their zany promotions to bring fans far from Sarnia to the games. They've also proven to be remarkably competitive, as the owners have shown that marketing savvy extends to the ice too.
  • Austin Rangers: Conceived by organizers of the South by Southwest (SxSW) music festival as an extension of their brand, the Rangers are a workmanlike team considered the "hipster" choice for a hockey fan. Like Sarnia, they've proven to be remarkably competitive, and maintain a rivalry with Dallas.
  • Providence Ice Tigers: Though geographically close to the Boston Bruins, the latter's lack of success and Providence's relative success have meant that they've emerged from the Bruins' shadows. They do it, though, with a slow, plodding defensive system that's at odds with the media, but it's consistently worked so they don't see a reason to stop.
  • Colorado Rockies: All they do is attack. Attack, attack, attack. Like Providence but for different reasons, Colorado is at odds with the media for their unconventional approach, but the fans have enjoyed their entertaining style and it's been successful for them so they have kept it going.
  • Halifax Crusaders: The team often held to have the most "fight" of any team in the East. The Crusaders are known for their commitment to valour, and have committed themselves to finding the league's best "character guys". Never an easy out.
  • Peterborough Pirates: They're the geographic rival to the Leafs- the city is located 150 kilometres from Toronto- but, like Brampton, the team is normally the weak sister though they're much further behind than Brampton is. Moved from Raleigh, North Carolina in the early 1990s, the Pirates are a work in progress and, while competitive, are still not much of a winning outfit in the East. This is where the "bottom feeders" usually begins.
  • Barrie Boars: The team that loves youth, or retiring veterans. The Boars, though somewhat competitive, have been known more for their academy than for their actual team, mostly because they produce far more stars than they keep, though finances doesn't play a part in that.
  • Kansas City Chiefs: A poorly conceived attempt at recreating the Buffalo Bills. Seeing the Bills' success, Lamar Hunt decided he would do it himself in Kansas City, but without doing the work needed for success, thinking their name is all that is needed. Usually derided as "the football team" in East Cup parlance.
  • Pittsburgh Penguins: The league laughingstock. The team is run so badly that they've gone more than twenty years averaging five wins a season, and just when the team looks like they're about to break out and enjoy some success, they trade a star player for nothing. The Penguins are basically hopeless.

Now that you've met the East, here are the other three:
  • West Cup: This league is the East's main rival and is the hockey world's second strongest league. The character of this league is skill and scoring, with the league doing everything it can through rule changes and policies to keep scoring levels high. It is a 40-team behemoth of a league, with teams just about anywhere you can imagine. It is, essentially, a characterization of the NHL's own pursuit of largesse as well as its pigheaded "American Dream". Here are the league's key teams:
    • Winnipeg Jets: The West's strongest team, and the one team often held to be Buffalo's only rival outside the East. They've typically had a great amount of resources and clout, but, outside of the team's halcyon days in the 1970s and 1980s, the Jets haven't been as dominant on the world stage.
    • Calgary Flames: One half of the "Battle of Alberta" rivalry, hockey's other heated rivalry and the Jets' main rivals.
    • Edmonton Oilers: The other half of the "Battle of Alberta" rivalry. The Oilers tend to prefer players from Alberta.
  • Canadian Professional Hockey League (CPHL): As the name suggests the CPHL is based entirely in Canada. It started out in 1990 having splintered from the East Cup, spearheaded by one of the East's founding fathers the Vancouver Canucks. Having first access to many of Canada's best junior players makes it the strongest league in terms of young talent, but the CPHL, despite having an exclusivity window on CBC's lucrative "Hockey Night In Canada" on Monday nights, lacks the resources to keep those players from bolting to the East or West Cup. The CPHL is largely a commentary of the "Canadian" aspect of the world of hockey, especially the Canadian inferiority complex. The key teams are:
    • Vancouver Canucks: Since they're the league's oldest team (having been a continuation of the old Western Hockey League power that jumped to the East in 1970) they're also the league's most successful, though on the world stage they're merely competitive. They have a rivalry with the Ottawa Senators, the only team in the CPHL's history to be Vancouver's legitimate rival for the top spot in the league.
    • Ottawa Senators: The Canucks' main rival, they're also competitive at the world stage, and have a rivalry with the Leafs when the two of them manage to meet in meaningful contests. They have also never beaten Toronto at that stage.
    • Crash Test Dummies of Victoria: Known for their ultra-defensive approach to hockey, with fanatical levels of obsession. They prefer top-notch goalies and defence-first players, and the results are a high level of 1-0 games. The Dummies- named for the rock band that owns the team- are often derided for being "boring" and are often the focus of rule change proposals, though the Dummies have shown remarkable ability to adapt.
  • Roman Premium:  The league for the Roman Empire (which never left this world- this is the world map I use), it contains many of the best teams in Europe. It boasts a few legitimate Stanley Cup contenders and its teams have won Cups in recent vintage, as the weight of Roman resources have allowed the league to get on par with its North American counterparts. This league is a characterization of the "European" element of the game. The Premium's key teams are:
    • Team Italy: The team for the Italian province of the Roman Republic (the Empire's "heartland"). Roman officials, when they first discovered how much popularity hockey was having in the Empire, poured the weight of their resources into a single Italian team, and thus have created a team that can- and does- rival the Sabres and Nordiques on the world stage.
    • Djurgardens IF: Sweden's most successful team, which has met similar success at the world stage. Along with Jokerit Helsinki, Djurgardens is Italy's chief rival at the league and world levels.
    • Jokerit Helsinki: Finland's most successful team, with comparable success at the world stage. They're also rivals with Italy and have a fierce rivalry with Djurgardens that harkens back to the Sweden-Finland rivalries of years past. They're more nationalistic than Djurgardens are.
There are other leagues, though the only notable team there are the Buffalo Bills, who play in what remains of the National Hockey League. The Bills are the Sabres' geographic rivals, formed by Ralph Wilson in 1980 as a means of diversifying his interests. His Bills in football were already a dominant team, and he wished to branch out to other sports and dominate them, getting his wish in hockey with two Stanley Cups in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The rest of the teams will get revealed as they need to be revealed, but those are the "main" characters. The other NHL teams as well as other prominent European teams that I have not mentioned here are notable teams in this blog as well, only to a lesser degree than the teams described above.

The format for the competition is simple: the Stanley Cup is contested for via a yearly tournament called the "Stanley Cup League" (SCL). It is contested in three parts: the qualification playoffs, the group stage (of 32 teams) and the knockout stage (of 16 teams). Qualification for the SCL varies by league, as the amount of teams each league can send to the SCL depends on how well that league's teams have done over the years in the SCL (called a league's "coefficient"). The coefficient, thus, can change over the years, meaning the amount of teams a league can send is not static. The best leagues send teams to both the group stage and the qualification playoff, whereas weaker leagues can only send them to the qualification playoffs, and how each league determines its entrants varies by league, though it almost always includes the best teams from that league. Every professional league in the world is eligible for the SCL provided they register with the trustees of the Cup, with newer leagues receiving lower coefficients. The East Cup and the Premium, having the highest coefficients, get to send 12 teams total to the SCL, three each to the group stage and nine each to the qualification playoff rounds.

Player movement in this league operates essentially the same way as it does in real life- through free agency and trades, but with a twist. Since there are over 100 teams in the "main" leagues, there's no draft- rather, each team has their own youth academy where they draw their players. There is also no "minor" league, in the way that we understand it- since every professional team is eligible for the Cup, a farm system as we know it cannot exist. However, "proxy farm systems" do exist, as teams are allowed to "loan" excess players to another team in a different league and recall them as they like, with no reduction in salary (the loaner and the loanee agree on how to pay the player's salary as part of the loan deal). The only time a recall cannot be allowed is if the loanee would be under its roster limits if the player is recalled, so oftentimes another player gets loaned out to that team from the recalling team to compensate.

National teams will also be part of this story. The season will take periodic breaks in play to have the national teams meet in meaningful contests, all meant to be qualifiers for a biannual world tournament. Since the world map I use is different from the real world, the pre-eminent national teams will be different. The chief teams break down as follows (in order of reputation):

  • Canada: Players from Western Canada, the Arctic, Ontario and the U.S. West Coast north of San Francisco.
  • Quebec: Players from the province of Quebec
  • Great Britain: Players from the British Empire, though they're typically from Atlantic Canada
  • Rome: Players from the Roman Republican territories and the territory of the Empire of Rome West, except Denmark, Norway and Sweden that keep their own teams.
  • Sweden
  • Finland
  • Slovakia
  • United States: Players from the old U.S. except from Texas, which is Roman Republican territory.
  • Russia: Players from the old Russian territories
  • Ukraine: Players from the old Ukrainian territories. Teams starting from here are the lesser weights are essentially interchangeable.
  • Norway
  • Denmark
  • Austria
  • Belarus
  • Poland
  • Japan: Includes China
  • Latvia
  • Saxony: In place of Switzerland.
  • Mongolia: Players from the Mongol Empire (which contains Kazakhstan)
  • France: Players from the French territories on the map.
Finally, before I end this segment, I want to remind you that this blog IS ENTIRELY FICTITIOUS. Although I use real players and teams, the situations they are in are fictional and are in no way meant to be actual depictions of the real entities. Thus, don't be surprised if you see your favourite player, coach, general manager, team, etc. behaving differently than they have in reality- any diversion is part of the creative process and is purely a fabrication inside my head. Any similarities to a real event are purely coincidental. So view this blog for what it is- as a work of fiction that serves as both a parody and a commentary on the hockey world as a whole, and that's it.

Enjoy your reading.

-DG

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I don't know what to say here...I was never very good at these things...

What can I say? I'm not a complex guy but I enjoy a complex discussion. I can talk about just anything because  I'm a quick learner and just like learning, but I'm a sports (watcher) person at heart. I've got a History Degree (with Honours) from York and I have the Research Analyst certificate from Georgian. I'm also a writer- I've provided the links in my profile for you to see if you wish.

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