Ray Flowers – SI Writer / SiriusXM Host
In graduate school I was writing about fantasy baseball when my company had an opening to set up the hockey product. I helped to put together the staff, and worked with the developer to launch FantasyHockey.com back in the days when fantasy hockey was really in its infancy. I’ve since moved on and I’ve been writing for Sports Illustrated for the last five years on hockey, so I guess people have been receptive to the way that I cover the game.
How does writing primarily about baseball influence the attention you can give towards the NHL?
It’s really an apples and oranges type of thing. Ultimately in baseball, it’s a 1-on-1 matchup between the pitcher and the batter. That’s fairly easy to analyze. In hockey, so much of a players value is tied up in his line mates and ice-time. It’s therefore a bit tougher to keep up-to-date with the latest machinations on the ice unless you have a lot of free time to devote to actually watching games to understand how players are utilized.
As a San Jose fan, why do you think the Sharks have consistently stumbled in the playoffs?
What are you talking about? Honestly, I think the team has been made for the regular season. The team has tons of skilled weapons, always has, but maybe they lacked the grit needed to win the playoff wars. I think the critique starts at the top with their best player. During the regular season Joe Thornton is able to wear teams down and find his wingers for easy goals. In the playoffs where the intensity is ratcheted up, there just isn’t the same ice for him to work with. If your best player isn’t playing like your best player, its tough to win.
What would you like to see the NHL do differently, whether on or off the ice?
I think the league needs to do a better job of reaching out to people in the United States. In Canada, it is a passion that kids have since they learn to skate when they leave the hospital after they are born. In the U.S. there is so much else going on that not many pay kids attention. Maybe they could work more closely with communities to get people to attend games. Watching hockey on TV is tough, and if that’s the only way that the casual fan knows the game, they might think it blows. Ask yourself this though – how many people do you know that after attending their first hockey game don’t want to go back?
What can fantasy hockey do differently in order to gain ground on fantasy baseball/football?
The fantasy game is in good shape, the problem is the interest level of people to play the game. Nothing will ever match football, and with 125 years of baseball in the States, I don’t know if hockey will ever make inroads here. However, I think fantasy hockey could be huge in Canada if the game was marketed better, so I guess I’d say the key would be to more directly market to our brothers up north.
Favorite current player and favorite player of the past?
I love watching Alexander Ovechkin, who doesn’t, but right now I’m a huge fan of Dan Boyle. Gritty, talented, and a leader, that guy lays it all on the ice every night, and when he screws up he faces the media after the game and says “I stunk.” You gotta respect that.
From the past there are names like Artus Irbe (my first hockey hero) and Igor Liranov, maybe a bit more recently Jeff Odgers, Eric Lindros and Keith Tkachuck, but my favorite retired player is Jeremy Roenick. There was nothing he couldn’t do. He skated like the wind, with his hair a flapping, before unleashing a wicked slap shot on a keeper. He also wasn’t afraid to mix it up physically — if he had weighed 200 lbs he would have been a ferocious monster.
The Sharks started slowly this year. I’m betting they pull a reversal and instead of excelling in the regular season they finally make their mark in the playoffs.
**You can find Ray’s recent article on the winners and losers of the NHL Trade Deadline here.**