Grab a chair, pour a ginger ale, and put some soft jazz on the hifi. We’re about to take a leisurely ride through the world of RMNB 2011. Today we’ll be looking at the good stuff today, and the really awful stuff we’ll see on Friday.

In 2011 we published more than 470 articles that more than doubled (206%) our traffic from 2010. Our readers (i.e. you) stay longer on our site, view more articles (102.5%), leave more comments (119%), and correct our grammar more than ever before. We climbed above 5k followers on Twitter (mostly spam bots), and we are now flirting with 6k. We’ve got around 3600 people liking us on Facebook, most of whom are just trying to win the swag Ian gives away every game. We started a tumblelog, where almost 500 people follow our silly pictures and quotes and other stuff that doesn’t fit on the main site. We’re working on a pinterest page, as soon as we figure out what that is.

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Up for grabs today.

This photo is up for grabs today.

Our humble little blog, Russian Machine Never Breaks, spent the last year cutting our teeth writing about the Washington Capitals. Through our labors we learned about the team’s secret weapon: the Hershey Bears. This Pennsylvanian cache of dynamic, young talent kept us entertained long after the Caps took their early curtain call at the playoffs. The Hershey Bears marched dutifully to their 11th Calder Cup championship led by guys like Andrew Gordon, a right winger with bright prospects whose only mistake in his young career was to blog with our lowly ilk.

The HBH-ers inspired us, and we decided they deserve more than a measly category on this site. So all of the Russian Machinists got together one night, drank a couple root beers, one thing led to another, and now we have a bouncing baby blog in the family.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to present to you

Sweetest Hockey on Earth

Piloting the new site will be Kathryn Hedrick, intrepid reporter and author of Flashy Glove Save, and Kyle M., photographer with a sports-coverage pedigree. Together they will relay to you the promise and excitement of the Hershey Bears Hockey with the same gusto, pizazz, and thesaurus-ness you find here on RMNB proper.

So join us in bookmarking www.sweetesthockeyonearth.com on your laptop (and iPad), following @SweetestHockey on the Twitters, liking us on the facebook, and plugging this RSS feed into your feed reader. We’ll make it worth your while.

To celebrate SHOE (oh dear, is that really the acronym?), we’re holding a little contest. Among those of you who network up with us and help spread the word on Friday, we’ll select the most enthusiastic to receive some free RMNB merch and the signed photo above. We’ll announce our winners before Hershey’s home opener on Saturday Night.

Go! Bears! Go!

RMNB in a NYT Blog Post about NHL Media Policy


Friend-of-the-blog Chris Gordon (nom de guerreCaps Snaps) put together a dazzling piece for the NYT hockey blog, Slap Shot, about the NHL’s media policy.  We discussed the issue at length here already.  The piece features quotes from Japers’ Rink, On the Forecheck, Caps media wizard Nate Ewell, and even us schlubs.  It’s a savvy piece, comparing at the motivations of blog-friendly clubs like the Caps to media-saturated and besieged teams like the Rangers (and pretty much everyone in Canada).

No excuse not to read it when the link is this big!

For the sake of laughs and posterity, here’s the full quote we supplied, unabridged and with a few more jokes:

All I’ve heard so far of the new NHL media policy is rumor. Until some enterprising PR guy leaks the thing, it’ll remain a straw man for bloggers like us to sneer at. From what I can tell, the policy codifies travelling teams’ ability to restrict access from new media folks.

I don’t think access to players – especially visiting teams – is what bloggers are good at or even interested in, so I doubt there will be much practical difference under this new policy. All the NHL has done, therefore, is antagonize and belittle bloggers for no apparent reason. We’re already a cantankerous and unstable breed of people, and although anarchic and headless, we generate a big chunk of buzz for National Hockey League.

Were I a decision-maker in Toronto, I’d begin a Blogger Appeasement Tour. It would start with granting unmitigated access to players in locker rooms and hotel rooms alike and end with perhaps some complimentary Knoll Life office chairs. Ahh, yes. That would be nice.

Knoll LifeCongratulations, Chris, on your hard work.

Read Neil Greenberg’s Debut with WaPo

Neil Greenberg's debut with WaPo

A year ago, you might have known Neil Greenberg only for his razor-sharp analysis on 5ive Hole, but the most controversial acquisition during the season last year might have been Neil’s signing with RMNB.  Since then, he’s become the Examiner’s hockey photographer of record, the Washington Post’s hockey statistics nerd, and Samantha Casey’s new BFF.

Capitals Insider posted Neil’s first file today, an incisive piece comparing Karl Alzner and John Carlson to their predecessors.  With the exception of the Carlzner portmanteau, it’s a huge success.  Please, go read the piece and leave him some love in the comments.

No excuse not to read the article when there’s a link this big.

Congratulations, Neil.  Please don’t forget the little people.

Russian Machine Never Breaks: We Suck

We spent a bunch of pixels bragging about all the cool stuff we did in the last year.  That’s cool, ’cause we really are proud.  But we’re totally rank amateurs.  False rumors, worse typing, and bad luck charms; that’s just us.  We’ve surpassed our peers by a long stretch of internet miles when it comes to screwing up.

  • The giant gray thing at the top of the page
    Ian assures that one day we will put a feature widget for good posts there.  I think he might just be waiting for us to write some.
    Russian Machine Never Breaks_1280326894548
  • Spelling names incorrectly
    We’re supposed to be fans of this team, so we should probably start spelling their names right.  I’ll go ahead and take the blame  for this one.  I’ve goofed up Matthieu Perrault, Michael Nuevirth, and both Morrrisssonnns.  I did it in my very first post, and I’ll eventually get around to correcting it.
  • Varlamov will miss the Olympics
    In our defense, Lisa Hillary was trying to trick us.
    After re-injuring his groinular area, Lisa gave a pessimistic prognosis that we might have accidentally blown completely out of proportion.  Real-live PR people and respectable writers had to bail us out.
  • Nick Backstrom to sign a huge contract… in February
    Maybe we were just waaaaay ahead of everyone else.  We found an article on a Swedish site that said Backy was this close to signing a massive deal.  It was a few weeks later before someone bothered explaining fact-checking to us.
  • Neil Greenberg
    Just in general.
  • Peter shaves his beard, dooms the Caps
    Peter loved #beardpact.  It was his baby, and he protected it.  But he couldn’t look like a pirate at his buddy’s wedding, so he shaved.  And the Caps lost three in a row.  JINX!
  • The Washington Capitals… Napoleon Dynamite style
    Sara Bae created these monstrosities, and we…. oh screw it.  This post was awesome, and we are unashamed. Please send us more fan art!
  • The Joe Corvo Bandwagon
    We trust Neil implicitly, and that’s a character flaw we will address soon.  He said that Corvo was the missing link and a hands-down improvement on Pothier.  Suckers we are.
  • Our logo scares children
    Ian’s girlfriend reports that this t-shirt has driven her students to tears.  That’s because it’s freaking terrifying.  Contrast/compare with one of the most twisted films of all time:
    Ovie vs Clockwork Orange
  • Taunting the Hockey Gods
    We had a post actually titled We Got it Made, in which we document all the reasons why the Caps will beat the Canadiens in five games.  Our reasons included secondary scoring and Jose Theodore.  Ugg.
  • In-SEMIN-nation
    Least tasteful t-shirt ever?  Be honest; someone was going to do this sooner or later.  Just be glad it was us.
  • Justin Bieber in the Bears’ locker room
    There’s a fine line between cute human-interest stories and oversharing.  This post demarcates the two.
  • Various crimes against the English language
    Our relationship with the written word is abusive and codependent.  The difference between resign and re-sign (post date: Yesterday) springs to mind.  We’re language recidivists, well beyond any hope of rehabilitation.

After looking at all this, I can’t blame Mike Green for blocking us on Twitter.   We’re a wandering band of fools and idiots, sauntering into town, breaking everything we touch and offending the locals.  At this point, that you’re still reading this post speaks more to your failings than ours.  You really should know better.

If you have any other screw-ups we should know about, use the comments to have your voice heard.  Tomorrow, we’ll list our resolutions for next year.   We promise to do better, people.

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Russian Machine Never Breaks: The Highlights

Top 10 Stories of the Year
10. Semyon Varlamov Finally Rehabs Again With The Hershey Bears (http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2010/02/07/semyon-varlamov-finally-rehabs-again-with-hershey-bears/)
Ian told us of Varly’s kinda triumphant return to pro hockey in early February, and everyone kinda flipped out.  Partially because the Future of the Franchise was finally on the mend and partially because his helmet has a bazillion eagles on it.
9. Could The Kovalchuk Signing Mean The End For Semin In DC? (http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2010/07/19/could-the-kovalchuk-signing-mean-the-end-for-semin-in-dc/)
Just last week, Neil peered into a crystal ball with one eye and Ilya Kovalchuk’s ridiculous contract with the other.  Through the fog he saw the boyish grin of Alex Semin, whose one-year extension looms over the coming season like… well, a fog.
8. Ovechkin, Semin and Varlamov End Year With Devastating Loss In World Championships Gold Medal Game To Czech Republic (http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2010/05/23/ovechkin-semin-and-varlamov-end-year-with-devastating-loss-in-world-championships-gold-medal-game-to-czech-republic/)
The Caps parade of misery finally reached its completion with Team Russia’s disappointing silver finish at world championships.  And we, like rubberneckers, can’t help but stare at the disappointment on the faces of Alex and Alex.
7. Russian Lessons Part I: Learn To Say Ovechkin Correctly (http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2010/02/08/russian-lessons-part-i-learn-to-say-ovechkin-correctly/)
Fedor endeared himself to us with this crash course in Russian.  Now I can’t have a conversation with Ian without him hooting “ah-BOOCH-kin”.
6. Rejoice! Samantha Casey, Miss Virginia USA, is a Big Caps Fan.
This was one of our favorite fan profiles and unsurprisingly the most popular.  Apologies to Michael Jenkins and all the people whose bandwidth this page ate up with its two dozen images.
5. Braden Holtby, Superstitions & the Introduction of “Holtbyisms”
Holtby is now Hershey’s number-one netminder, and he’s one wacky dude.  Let’s keep him and his Holtbyisms in the Caps organization for a long time to come.
4. Alex Semin Smokes, Russia Loses Its Dang Mind (http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2010/05/13/alex-semin-smokes-russia-loses-its-dang-mind/)
Fedor and I had a bear of a time getting to the bottom of this one, partially because it’s a non-story.  Alex Semin can skate figure eights around me, so if he wants to have a pack a month, that’s cool by me.
3. Caps vs. Pens: The Fix Is In? (http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2010/04/06/caps-vs-pens-the-fix-is-in/)
Addison did a terrific job revealing that officials put the whistle away for the Penguins when they play the Caps.  It’s math, people.  Deal with it.
2. The Latest Updates From Ilya Kovalchuk’s Facebook News Feed (http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2010/07/21/the-latest-updates-from-ilya-kovalchuks-facebook-news-feed/)
1. Habs Fans Boo National Anthem. How Will Caps Fans Respond? (http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2010/04/19/habs-fans-boo-national-anthem-how-will-caps-fans-respond/)
Yay!  One that I wrote!  The gist is this: Caps fans rule, and everyone else sucks.

Buckle up, friends; we’re taking a victory lap.

Over the last year (technically more like 9 months), we’ve had some terrific highlights.  Yes, the grim shadow of the playoffs still hangs over the year, but we choose to remember the good times.  Our finest moments are usually our team’s finest moments as well, and so our recollection includes the high points of both the team and our silly blog.

At latest count, our Facebook page has 1,047 likers (including my mom).   The parade of typos we call our Twitter account has 1,493 followers.  The website itself is north of 300,000 hits, which is kind of dumbfounding if you think about it too long.  Our teammates Neil and Fedor have parlayed their skills into gigs with VOA and Washington Examiner respectively.  Even Peter has managed to hustle free pub fries from The Greene Turtle using the blog.

If we had to pick a single highlight for the year, it would have to be Andrew Gordon’s residency during the Calder Cup Finals. When Ian blackmailed convinced Andrew to pitch in, we didn’t know quite what to expect.  Once Andrew turned in his first column, we figured out that his writing chops are just as formidable as his hockey skills.  Andrew provided an unprecedented look not only behind the scenes, but also into the heart, of professional hockey.  We are eternally grateful to Andrew for both his candor and the oodles of traffic he delivered.

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Russian Machine Never Breaks: One Year Later

The Best Caps related picture of me I could find.

Ian Oland: Fearless Leader (Portrait by Anna Schmidt)

On Saturday, July 31st, Russian Machine Never Breaks will be hosting a party at The Front Page in Arlington to celebrate our first year together.  Now that the season is a half-forgotten memory, development camp has ended, and the hockey world produces practically no news throughout August, we thought this the perfect time to reflect back on the year.

The season had already begun when Ian floated past me the idea of starting a Caps blog.  Ian and I recognized one another as Caps fanatics. He, deeply possessed of ninja-like design skills and the marked success of Matt Wieters Facts, and I, renowned for a writing style one can describe only as masturbatory, thought ourselves a good match.

From the start, we had a goal: document the experience of a Washington Capitals fan.  For us, that meant writing about the team with the same passion and fun the team plays with.  We didn’t have any preconception of how people might react, of even if they would react at all.  Given the absolute absence of expectations for the site, we can say now that year one of RMNB has far surpassed our expectations.

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Russian Machine’s First Post

If you’re here at this blog right now, you’re here for a reason. It’s either because I managed to goad you into somehow clicking on one of my links or because you genuinely have a large passion for hockey and can’t get enough of it. If you’re one of the latter, then I totally get you.

Why do I get you? Well, because I’m a hockey addict too. My parents get it (when I used to live at home, I’d yell at them if they didn’t have the Caps game on during dinner), my girlfriend puts up with it (no dates on game days) and my roommate worries about me (he frequently asks “did they score or is there a dead body in your room?”)

So how did I get to this point? Let’s go back in the Way Back Machine. Like every other kid who loved sports, I watched SportsCenter every morning religiously before getting on the bus for school. And generally, I’d be excited about the NBA highlights, the NFL highlights and kinda get bored by the hockey highlights which were – let me add – always shown at the end of the show. I seriously remember having an inner thought as an 8 year of “Who is Pierre Turgeon and why does his name sound so funny?” I didn’t really get what a hat trick was, I didn’t understand the fighting, and it just seemed like a boring sport to watch. And don’t even get me started on the weird standings point system. The Patrick Division? Two-Line Passes? What the hell? Admittedly it was a hard sport to learn as a youngster.

This all changed when one night I came downstairs to find my older brother Brandon watching a Capitals game in October 1995. At the time, I was a scrawny 11 year old who looked up to my brother – 3 years my senior – for everything. I remember sitting there beside him having trouble finding the puck along the boards while guys would forecheck. It kinda made my brain hurt. But I kept watching because my brother was. At some point, I don’t remember when, I saw this Big #24 guy (who ended up being Capitals legend Mark Tinordi) crunch another player hard (and I mean hard) into the boards behind the goal. “WOAHHHH!!!! THAT’S AWESOME!” I screamed. “Isn’t that a penalty?!” I asked my brother. “Nope, that’s legal in this sport.” Instantly I was intrigued.

After all these years that’s all I remember of the first NHL game I watched, a huge Mark Tinordi check. But after that night, I started watching more and more. So much more that my parents took notice. On Christmas Day 1995, after my brother and I opened all our gifts by the tree, we got to our stockings. What’s inside you ask? Capitals tickets with my dad and brother to go see them play the Rangers on January 6th!! What was my reaction? Kinda like this.

Sadly I don’t remember much of that Capitals game beyond the fact that a few minutes before the second intermission, I left my dad and brother and went down to the lower bowl of the USAir Arena. This was after Steve Konowalchuk scored two awesome goals 44 seconds apart. As the players walked back towards the locker room I yelled “Kono, are you going to get a hat trick?” He came up to me, gave me a high five and said “You bet I am!”

Excitedly I ran back up to my seats and told my brother and dad. I couldn’t believe an athlete just talked to me!! My brother and dad were skeptical it even happened. They remained skeptical until Konowalchuk scored his third goal of the night in the third period and I jumped up and down screaming “I told you so!! I told you so!!”

The Caps ended up tying the Rangers that game 4-4, but that didn’t matter. The point was that after that small gesture by Steve Konowalchuk, it made me feel such a huge connection to the team.

Since then, I’ve tried to watch every Capitals game on TV during the season, go to as many practices as I can and go to as many games as I could afford. I’ve been to 11 straight Opening Night games at Verizon/MCI Center. I have 7 different Caps player jerseys. I have a booklet full of autographed cards which includes two leaflets full of Peter Bondra autographs.

And so now, naturally, it’s time to take the obsession to the next level: a hockey blog.

After my success with Matt Wieters Facts, I thought it was the right time to bring together an extremely talented and diverse group of writers including musician and information architect Peter Hassett, Carroll County Times Features Writer Brandon Oland, and Camden Crazies blogger and resident Russian Translator Daniel Moroz to bring you another entertaining look at the NHL’s most interesting and dominant team. Expect to laugh and be intrigued. That’s for sure.

Anyways, if you remember yourself crying and having a sleepless night over a horrible playoff loss or tearing up all your Detroit Red Wings trading cards and throwing them in the toilet because you’re so upset that they beat your favorite team in the Stanley Cup Finals, then this blog’s for you. And even if you haven’t done any of that, this blog’s for you anyways. I hope you enjoy our content in the months to come. Please follow us on Twitter, and if you’ve got the time, tell us how you fell in love with hockey below in the comments!