Vote for Rich: The Next President of Boston Sports

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Vote for Rich: The Next President of Boston Sports

Ladies and gentlemen, liberals and conservatives, the day of reckoning is upon us. The day when we all, hopefully, will exercise our basic rights as Americans and vote for the leaders of our country.

Over the last few months, youve been inundated with non-stop campaigning, intense debate, editorialized social media hell and some of the most annoying television commercials this side of the NAPA Know How Guy. I know that youre ready for it all to stop. And today, mercifully, it will. Weve reached the end of the election road, my friends. And now the ball is in your court.

But before you step into the polls this afternoon and tonight, I hope youll take a moment and read what I have to say. As a candidate for President of Boston Sports, I want to make our city a better place for all fans, regardless of the color of your jersey; regardless whether you sit courtside or in the nose bleeds. I want to create an atmosphere where our teams are best suited to succeed. I want to bring Boston back from the ashes and into a new era of dominance, so we can regain our standing as the envy of every sports city in the free world.

But I can only do it with your vote.

I need you. But I promise, moving forward, you need me just as much. And I swear, that if elected to office, I will dedicate my life to raising the discourse and taking the quality of life and sports in this city to levels never seen under any previous administration.

With Tom Brady as my witness, I will do it. And I will do it all for you: The Boston sports fan.

Today, there's no more pressing issue than the in-game experience at our various stadiums and arenas. Exorbitant ticket prices and the lure of comfortable couches and superior HD TVs are reeking havoc on attendance numbers and threatening the core of an across-the-board home-courtfieldice advantage that has powered our teams over the last 100 years. But in dealing with this problem, it's important to be realistic. Instead of simply demanding lower ticket prices, we must increase the value of going to the games. We must make it more enjoyable for all parties. And there are a few easy and immediate steps that we can take to ensure that things start moving in the right direction.

First, any fan, at any game, that is seen standing up with a cell phone in his or her hand, waving to either the camera or a friend in another part of the park will be ejected and suspended for a month. Their photo will be immediately posted on the in-stadium Jumbotron with the caption "Fan's Name is an a------." I know that this language may not be suitable for all ages, but it's important that our youth understands the consequences of this kind of behavior. These are desperate times, folks.

Speaking of waving, under my administration, "the wave" will be outlawed everywhere outside Fenway Park. And within Fenway, the wave will only be permitted after the sixth inning and during games in which the Red Sox have a lead in excess of two runs. Furthermore, the wave will only be conducted in the bottom half of innings as to not screw with the concentration andor communication between the Sox pitcher and catcher.

The presence of hecklers is an essential aspect of any homefield advantage, but we can all agree that, when in the wrong hands, heckling poses a threat to the sanctity of any trip to the stadium. There is nothing worse than a bad, unfunny heckler. Under my administration, hecklers will be licensed and unionized. Wannabe hecklers will undergo strenuous training in which they'll be schooled in the finer aspects of the art. The difference between funny and annoying; between getting in the head of an opposing player and acting in a way that makes other fans want to ring your neck. Once passing the course and it's not a given that they will hecklers will be granted access to the Boston Heckler Network, a place where the best and brightest can exchange ideas in the days and hours before a big game. Licensed hecklers will be given a white sports coat emblazoned with a unique bar code that will wear to any and all events.

I previously mentioned the importance of educating our youth on the proper way to act during these games, and I can't stress enough how essential this is. The children are our future! And whether or not you have a child, it's everyone's responsibility to make sure that youth is served. On that note, if you are sitting at a game and hear a father providing bogus information to his son or daughter, it is on you to interject. If a child leaves a game under the impression that Jason Terry used to play for the Rockets or that Zdeno Chara comes from Russia, everyone in that section will be held accountable and subject to punishment.

Lastly, a few specific changes I will make to stadiums in this city.

1. An extra entrance will be added to TD Garden so that no one is forced to wait out in the cold in the moments leading up to a big Bruins or Celtics game. Not to mention, both escalators and the staircase will remain open every night. I will also open four kiosks throughout the arena that sell ONLY chicken fingers. As it is, the lines are outrageous. And let's be honest, that's all anyone is looking for.

2. An additional three Route 1 crossings will be created at Gillette Stadium. Each crossing will need no more than two police officers on site. I will also be open to "Fantasy Football Lounges" on each end of the stadium. The lounges will be equipped multiples TVs showing live broadcasts of other games, and computers where fans without proper smart phones (or phones that are out of batteries) can check in on their match-ups. There will be a two-minute limit at each computer.

3. There will be NO "E Line" trains during the hours before and after a Red Sox game.

4. All teams will be forced to show all important replays, regardless of whether a call or play resulted negatively for the home team. This is non-negotiable.

Moving on, as much as we need to improve the experience of supporting our teams in person, it's just as essential to regulate the people who cover them. The role of media here in Boston is so important to the overall pleasure and excitement of being a sports fan, and there are many ways in which it can be improved upon. Now, I realize the need for free speech, and I don't want to infringe on anyone's rights. But there are important, brave steps that need to be made. And I am the man to make them. Here's where I'd start:

First and foremost, there's no place for backwards thinking in this city. Not politically that's in the eye of the beholderear of the listener but socially. Bigotry will NOT be tolerated. On that note, one of my first acts of president will be to run a New England-wide pledge drive of which I will donate a significant amount of my own money to buy Dennis and Callahan out of the rest of their contract. If WEEI is inclined, they will be allowed to transform the show into a weekly podcast, but only grant access to listeners over the age of 55. (That shouldn't be a problem).

Also, anytime that Tony Massarotti makes the same point more than three times in the same breath, his mic will be shut off for a minute. For instance, "You know, Mike, I was looking it up this morning and the Patriots secondary just SUCKS! Really, when you look at all the numbers, it's really just a sucky secondary. And to be completely honest, the more I think about it, in and of itself, the secondary just SUCKS! And . . ." Boom. Silence. Bertrand's mic goes live and the conversation continues without missing a beat. Also, anytime Mazz mocks a caller with his go to schtick, I will make SURE that said caller will be allowed to deliver one free punch to anywhere on Massarotti's body.

Felger and Mazz will NOT be allowed to discuss the NBA, and the Big Show will NOT be allowed to discuss hockey. This will solve a lot of problems.

Listen, there's so much more we need to address in this city, and I promise, if you elect me as the President of Boston Sports, I will see that anything that needs to be done, will be done. I will leave no stone unturned in the betterment of this sports society. But before you head into the polls and decide my fate or more specifically our fate, I want to leave you with one final promise.

Under my administration, twice every year at the start and end of each season Danny Ainge, Larry Lucchino, Bill Belichick and Jeremy Jacobs will be hooked up to a polygraph and subjected to an interview on live TV. Conducted by me, your president. I will ask all the tough questions, and hold everyone accountable. I won't ask them to divulge any secrets or put the success of their teams at risk, but I can promise you that we will live in a city of honesty and reasonable transparency. I will demand that from the leaders of our teams.

And I promise that every step along the way, you will always get the same unconditional honesty and transparency from me.

Vote for Rich.

You won't regret it.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Morning Skate: Old friend Warsofsky called up by Penguins

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Morning Skate: Old friend Warsofsky called up by Penguins

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while waiting for the next wave of announcements that the Bruins have signed college players out of the NCAA tournament.
 
-- Former Wild goaltender Josh Harding is finding his way after his MS diagnosis forced him out of the NHL prematurely.

-- Young D-man Seth Jones is becoming the “hoss” defenseman that the Blue Jackets will need come playoff time.

-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has Wild coach Bruce Boudreau calling a loss to the Canucks “embarrassing” as the hard times continue for Minnesota.  

-- Backup goalie Curtis McElhinney is ready to step up for the Leafs after they lost Frederik Andersen to injury.
 
-- Old friend David Warsofsky has been recalled from the AHL and will be with the Penguins as crunch time hits ahead of the playoffs.

-- USA Hockey is now reportedly reaching out to rec league and former Division III women’s hockey players to find a replacement roster for the world championships as the USA women continues their boycott.
 
-- For something completely different: We have an honest-to-goodness think piece about pulling the “Irish Exit.” Well, okay then.

Haggerty: Time for Bruins to make a change in goal

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Haggerty: Time for Bruins to make a change in goal

BROOKLYN -- For the second year in a row, Boston's franchise goaltender and $7 million man Tuukka Rask couldn’t physically answer the bell for one of the biggest games of the year.

Rask was unable to go Saturday night when the Bruins faced the Islanders at the Barclays Center because of a lower body injury. Anton Khudobin stepped in and helped the B's to a 2-1 victory that snapped their four-game losing streak, moved them past the Isles back in the second wild-card spot, and enabled them to close to two points behind Toronto for third place in the Atlantic Division.

It wasn't quite the same as last year, when Rask was too sick to play the win-or-go-home regular-season finale against Ottawa. The Bruins got shellacked in that one and missed the playoffs. There are still two weeks left in the regular season, so Saturday didn't have the same do-or-die consequences.

But Khudobin, who made 18 saves, gave Boston some energy and enthusiasm in the crease with the same kind of battling, chaotic style that Tim Thomas exhibited. Watching Khudobin throw a double-pad stack at John Tavares on a late third-period Islanders power play in a one-goal game was a clear sign that Rask wasn’t in net, and his unconventional technique perhaps distracted Tavares enough that he ripped his open shot off the crossbar and away from harm.

Afterward interim coach Bruce Cassidy fervently sang Khudobin’s praises, and almost seemed to be shedding some light on what they aren’t always getting from their top goaltender in these crunch-time games.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard, and fighting that hard to see pucks and your D are blocking shots," he said. "And you kill that many penalties. (The Islanders failed to score on six power plays.) It was a nice building-block win for us.

"I loved [Khudobin’s] performance. He’s a battler. He got swimming a couple of times, but that’s Dobby. He keeps it interesting for you. He’s a battler and he always has been. That’s what we needed tonight.”

So now the Bruins have a choice about what to do Tuesday against the Predators. And the hope here is that Khudobin gets a second straight start, whether or not Rask is healthy enough to go.

Khudobin has won five games in a row and has a 1.98 goals-against average and a  .920 save percentage since the All-Star break. Rask, in contrast, has an inflated 2.91 GAA and .892 save percentage in that span.

More than that, however, there’s a real issue developing with Rask and how much trust the Bruins can have in him when the games matter most. He gave up a couple of bad goals in the loss to the Lightning on Thursday night, and afterwards looked like the boy who lost his dog when answering questions with a soft, unsure voice that began to trail off when it came time to accept responsibility for his part in the ugly defeat.

The downcast expression was a concern, and it certainly seemed like Rask was rattled mentally as much as he was beaten physically after that defeat.

So the overriding question now is: What good is a No. 1 goaltender if he doesn’t play like one when it matters most?

Maybe Rask is seriously injured and we’ll find out after the season that he needs hip surgery, and was far less than 100 percent all year. Or maybe playing three games in four nights was too much of a strain, and he needed the weekend away from the ice after the unavoidable bump in workload.

The fact that the Bruins expect Rask to practice on Monday, however, really takes some of the oomph out of the serious-injury argument, and makes one wonder how he can practice Monday after not playing in the biggest game of the season on Saturday.

Maybe Rask was angered by Cassidy calling him out by saying the team “needs more from him” after the goalie's lackadaisical performance in the loss to Tampa Bay, and that played into the goalie’s sudden case of “lower body discomfort” on Friday after saying Thursday he felt fine physically.

Maybe Rask is frazzled emotionally after the burden of carrying the team at times this season, and he needed a few days away from the ice to recollect himself and get ready for the crucial seven remaining games on the schedule.

Still, the Bruins can’t look at Rask as someone they can rely on when the chips are down for the rest of this season. That cost them last year, and shame on the Bruins if they again make the mistake of putting all of their playoff eggs in the Rask basket.

Perhaps it’s time to even start thinking about other goaltending options this summer. Rask will no longer have full no-trade protection once the season is over. He's been inconsistent at best in the biggest moments over the years, and the B’s shouldn’t pay a goaltender like he’s one the best if he isn’t when the late-season heat is on.

But that’s a question to ponder in a month or two.

For now, the Bruins should ride the hot goalie -- Khudobin, who showed Saturday he's willing to battle his butt off -- and let Cool Hand Tuukka cool his heels on the bench while recuperating from whatever it is that kept him out of a gigantically important game in Brooklyn this weekend.