Part I :: Shutouts & Security Screening

PREFACE
Let me start this five-part post extravaganza by saying that I’m not entirely sure I possess the skills necessary to properly describe the awesomesauce of a weekend like this. The kinds of things I was privy to were amazing — and I’ve had a heck of a time wrapping my head around it all. It’s fair to say that I’ll forget something — and it’d be something pretty awesome — just because of how many incredible things went down over 48 hours. There will be stories that are one-liners, there will be stories that won’t even scratch the surface of the experience, and there will be stories whose details will remain private, like much of the conversation I had with Mr. Holland.

I went into the weekend unsure of how I’d approach it on The Production Line, if at all. It was one of those things where I needed to discover if I should just enjoy it as a fan, which I obviously am, or try to relay a handful of stories. I thought that if it were someone else going, I’d kill to hear which players are quiet, which members of the organization are hilarious, even inconsequential details like what kind of spread they offer the plane.

It goes without saying that none of this was possible without the help of some incredible folks — some of whom will be recognized in a moment. But I owe a sincere thank you to Media Relations Manager Todd Beam, General Manager Ken Holland, and Mr. Holland’s assistant Kathi Wyatt. They made an excursion like this, which I’m certain was difficult to coordinate, insanely easy every step of the way.

So, with all that out of the way… here we go.

HOW’D ALL THIS GO DOWN?
Long story short, it’s thanks to Jack’s Place for Autism, Jim & Lisa Price, and the Dombrowski family. My stepmom is on the board of Jack’s Place, and when they approached the Red Wings to donate something to be auctioned off for a fundraiser, the Wings graciously offered a weekend of access to the team, including a seat on the team plane, a room in the team’s hotel, and tickets to a pair of games. Originally, it was intended to be for a pair of winning bidders.

The way I hear it, when the Wings found out I’d lose my mind to be a part of something like that, they opened it up to four. And so, following a successful fundraiser for Jack’s Place, my dad and I were going to escort the Red Wings to Tennessee. Not bad for a father-son weekend, eh?

We received our itinerary on Thursday afternoon, and as if it wasn’t enough to ride on Red Bird and catch a handful of hockey games, it turns out we were going to have a bit more access than I thought we might. We were invited to morning skates, team meals, and on team buses to and from the airports and arenas.

FRIDAY HOSTING THE BLUE JACKETS
I flew from LaGuardia into Detroit on Friday morning, still not quite sure what to expect of the proceedings. Hell, I wasn’t even sure what I should wear for something like this. Eventually, I stopped being a girl and just put something on and headed to the Joe — which was the first official item on the schedule.

We sat in some great seats to watch the Wings and Blue Jackets. Everyone’s favorite ticket rep Ryan Michaels came down to hang out for a few minutes, and it’s always nice to catch up with him.

I’m always hopeful for a victory but I was really hoping they could squeak this one out. The last thing I wanted was to be on a plane with 23 sour Red Wings, death-stare coach included. I still wasn’t sure what kind of access we’d have to the players once on board the plane, but I knew for certain I didn’t want to bother them regardless of the outcome… but particularly in a loss.

Didn’t quite go as planned.

As the final horn blew, our boys looking somewhat dejected following a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of a vastly inferior team (in theory), I knew it might be a quiet ride to Nashville.

AT THE AIRPORT
The last thing we were independently responsible for was getting to Detroit Metro Airport. I’m sure it’ll shock you to hear that the Wings don’t fly Delta — they have their own hangar, and their own plane, and their own little runway (which I’m sure is shared by other uber-important frequent fliers).

We hustled out of the Joe, because the game ended around 10 and the flight was scheduled to leave around 11, not leaving much time to navigate to Romulus. Even though my dad and I were fairly certain we’d beat the team out of the building (given that they had to shower and talk to the media, etc), I gently reminded him that the plane won’t leave without them…but it might leave without us.

Lo and behold, we were the first ones to the private terminal, hold for a few (very cool) security folks. A few minutes later, faces you’d recognize began to stream in, one by one, as they arrived in their own cars.

Brian Rafalski was the first player through the door — and he headed straight for the plane.

Todd Bertuzzi was next (of course he was). He didn’t say much of anything.

Mike Babcock was the first to go out of his way to come over and say hello.

Mickey Redmond beat the rest of the team — he dropped his luggage and proceeded to the check-in.

And then, one of the more bizarre things that happened all weekend occurred. Ken Daniels, yeah… the one who does play-by-play, was holding the security screening wand. For a minute, I thought he was just screwing around, being funny, trying to lighten the mood for a bunch of guys that just had an off-night. But no… he actually did the security screening, along with an official from the TSA.

I asked him how he got stuck with that duty that night, and he made some crack about doing “whatever you can for a buck.” I was convinced they alternate and take turns being the second security guy. But on the way back, it was Mr. Daniels again…

Once our contact, Todd Beam, arrived we were invited to board. He told us not to worry about bothering the players, they’ll probably all be doing their own thing but if we wanted to chat, just head on over to them. I was still unsure about doing that, seeing as how they were just shutout, and decided that I’d wait until the next day before I try to get all buddy-buddy with them.

Backpack full of Shirtuzzis, Curly Fries t-shirts, and a blank H2H2 shirt… I headed out of the waiting room and onto the runway…

Film Review: HorseCop


The Latinas love it.

Once in a lifetime — if we’re lucky — a film comes along that changes the way we look at ourselves, not to mention the way we view cinema forever.

Our parents had The Godfather. Their parents had Gone with the Wind. Their parents had… well, I dunno… some weird Edison newsreel, I suppose.

We, friends, have HorseCop. And Jurassic Park. But mostly HorseCop.

In his insanely brilliant follow-up to Machete, director Robert Rodriguez gave us chills, thrills, and quite a few spills from the new most famous horse in the world (suck on that, Seabiscuit). It’s a dark romantic mocku-dramedy rife with car chases, gun fights, naked women, broken bones, mace (the badass medieval weapon, not the pansy spray), and features a suave leading man as he sexes his way to all the bad guys, bringing an end to dog-fighting, illegal trafficking, and global warming in one fell swoop.

Just another Thursday for Officer Cop. Officer Horse Cop.

If you can saunter into HorseCop and come out the same man or woman two hours later, you’re clearly some sort of demon person and you aren’t welcome here anymore. Put Xanadu back on and crawl into your lonely, dark, lonely darkroom. Alone.

If you think you’re man (or woman) enough for HorseCop, buckle your seat belt, grab your sack (or ovaries) and hit the next showtime.

Bring lube. You’re going to need it.

GENERAL SYNOPSIS

The year is 2024. Oh, I didn’t mention it’s the future? Well it is.

An impossibly handsome and independently wealthy young man decides that his sexual prowess could be used for good, instead of just gooooood and quickly rises through the ranks within the Fuckyeah America Police Department. His once-partner has gone rogue — now a kingpin himself — and Officer Cop must learn to work with a new partner.

While Officer Cop is no stranger to sowing his oats, he’s going to have to contend with a new type of oats… the kind his teeth-kicking, fire-breathing, death-bringing mildly-retarded thoroughbred partner has tucked in his cheek.

Can they work together? Will each be jealous of the other’s manhood? Will Office Horse ever learn to love again after losing his filly (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) to a 33-story drop off of Frost Bank Tower (the tallest non-residential building in Austin and first sky-scraper to be begun following September 11th)?

Much of the tension between the partners stems from Officer Horse’s loss, since Officer Cop pulls no punches letting his equine counterpart know exactly how he felt about her looks (“She looked like a fucking horse, bro.”)

BRILLIANT PERFORMANCES: FROM LEADING MAN TO LEADING MANE

Surefire Future Hollywood Walk of Famer Robert Discher is two parts Lorenzo Lamas, three parts Chuck Norris, and one part Daryl Hall — but that’s the part that counts most…ladies. Officer HorseCop is a man’s man — a flying bear in a world of sharp-toothed birds, big enough for Willa and two Duffs. When he’s not personally ending world hunger or building roofs over the homeless with nothing but his two hands and a couple nails, he’s precariously juggling the women who love him: a number so high that mere mortals can’t fathom. It even has its own symbol. It kind of looks like Prince’s old name. But sexier.

The squeeze we see most often on-screen is ably played by Vanessa Hudgens, who has been quoted as saying that she “can’t even look Zac anymore” after sharing only a few testosterone-fueled moments in Discher’s trailer rehearsing lines. Which is odd considering she has a grand total of zero lines, aside from moans and sounds of painful desperation.

Fresh off of his breakthrough role on television, Equine McYzerman is nothing short of Oscar fodder. If he’s overlooked during awards season, it’d be a crime akin to every woman on the planet losing to Erin Brockovich’s cans in 2001. Don’t make the same mistake twice, Academy. If ever an animal has deserved attention for one’s performance, it’s this. McYzerman has recently checked into rehab, amid reports of “dehydration,” but has said he’d be honored to reprieve the role, should anyone be alive long enough to make an awesome enough sequel: “That’ll show that little bitch Toto who’s the boss…”

In a stellar turn as the good cop gone bad, is the legendary Bruce Campbell, whose notably lines all include the word “Boomstick” — only with a thick, poorly-done Scottish accent that no one seems to understand, even on-screen for some reason. Brilliant cameos from “Smooth” Billy Dee Williams, Jimmy Smits, Christopher Lambert, Jeff Daniels, and Verne Troyer — NO I KNOW! I thought he was dead, too — only increase the starpower of an unruly cast of misfits, sexpots, and once-demi-gods.

CLAIMS FROM THE MASSES

All of the Latinas streaming out of the theatre said that they were no longer wearing their panties — but they weren’t sure how that happened. As they stumbled into the lobby, many of them smoking cigarettes lit with the smoldering embers of what remains of their undergarments, they seemed to have a sort of euphoric confusion about them. A handful even stopped by the local convenience store to buy a pregnancy test, convinced that they were now carrying an immaculately conceived lovechild, which is now beginning an eight-month process (yeah, the baby’s that awesome) of perfecting its bicep curls while slowing building its awesome and quickly growing sideburns.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this movie saved our marriage,” said John and Jane Q. Lonelysheets, a long-married couple from parts unknown. “All I know is we were stuck in a rut, banging our head against the metaphorical brick wall until we saw HorseCop and now we have to rush home to create several thousand babies.”

A ten minute sandwich-making montage really hit home with Madison native Zachary MacRostie. “I’d lost all faith in humanity’s ability to make a good sandwich,” MacRostie would later say, “and then I saw HorseCop and I knew all would be well in the morning. I mean to think… Officer Horse Cop uses the same kind of mustard I do? I cried for an hour.”

THE FILMMAKERS WOULD LIKE TO THANK…

Big thanks to @stevieroxelle for the art design, which is simply breathtaking in its beauty. Another big thanks to @bradonweb for helping with character development.

See it now. NOW!

Mission: Accomplished

Courtesy of our OCF Campaign Manager, @captnorris of The Winged Wheel

Congratulations, Red Wings Nation — you got ’em back!

The Production Line would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to Underground Printing, MSN, Fox Sports Detroit, Dana Wakiji, Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski, Hunter PR, Doner Advertising, The Sporting News’ Sean Gentille, Sports Illustrated, and — of course — Arby’s Restaurant Group.

In addition, this absolutely would not have happened without all of the Retweets, #OperationCurlyFries hashtagging, blog posts, and tens of thousands of votes from all over the world. Thank you to everyone that made this happen!

Over the last few weeks, we’ve said everything that needs to be said. No more words. GO GET YOUR CURLY, FRIED GOODNESS!

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THE HISTORY OF OPERATION: CURLY FRIES

Bingo, Curly Fries!
British Submarines and Curly Fries
Sports Illustrated, with a Side of #operationcurlyfries
Operation: Curly Fries Update!
Go get your fries, Hockeytown
I had a dream
#OperationCurlyFries has a new campaign manager
Operation: Curly Fries Goes Global
TPL on Fox Sports Detroit

SPOTTED: EMOdano

If you’ve been a reader of TPL since way back when, you surely recall posts calling for sightings of Mantuzzi — and Shetuzzi. Brave patriots far and wide commented on those two stories, letting us know where they’d spotted the vile beasts in their day-to-day lives, and everyone was appreciative.

Well, thanks to our good friend @MrNorrisTrophy from Winging it in Motown, we have physical proof of the existence of another frightening character. It’s a man-child that was introduced to you by our very own Christopher J. F. C. Hollis. “Sad Mike” was around the team last week, infecting them with his boohoohoos and subtle wrist bandages. Now we have a photograph, and we turn to you to help us piece together where he’s been since that visit to the locker room.

Take a look at the photo below — and join us in the comments to let us know where you’ve seen him and what he was doing…

Bonus points for anyone that can get this photo up in their local Hot Topic.

TPL on Fox Sports Detroit

Well, we wish the game would have been better… but it was a milestone night for The Production Line. The video above (captured and uploaded by our good friend Tyler of The Triple Deke) features Fox Sport Detroit’s John Keating talking about Operation: Curly Fries (for the first time, referring to it as such) and mentions TPL. We are now (local television sports broadcast) famous(ish)!

Only two more days to vote — head on over to Fox Sports’ site and vote Curly Fries!

Operation: Curly Fries Goes Global

Courtesy of our good friend @stevieroxelle

Anyone that knows anything about hockey knows that Hockeytown stretches far beyond Detroit’s city limits. We’re a proud bunch stationed all over the state, all over the nation, all over the world. You probably heard us cheering when the Wings scored in Anaheim and Los Angeles over the weekend. You’ve likely watched a relative home game played in Arizona.

Like all things Red Wing, Operation: Curly Fries has been embraced far and wide by patriots who seemingly only have a few things in common: an undying affection for the winged wheel, and love for the community no matter what zip code you call home. Wings Nation brotherhood was probably never felt more strongly than it was last March, when hundreds of us banded together to welcome a displaced wingnut to Motown after a long flight from Brazil.

Even though Arby’s promotion is generally only extended to Metro Detroit restaurants, that hasn’t stopped Red Wings fans all over the world from voting to correct an injustice. We’ve received tweets or e-mails of support from people in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

We’ve confirmed Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan have checked in and voted Fries.

Our favorite Brazilian has voted. Our favorite Norwegian has, too. So has Australia, Austria, Belarus, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Latvia, Morocco, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.

I didn’t even know what Mauritania was until we found out they read the site, and count themselves among the Wings faithful.

Hell, even bloggers from other teams are pulling for us.

Fox Sports is behind us. Trevor Thompson made sure to mention he’s voting curly fries on the air. Sports Illustrated is behind usThe Sporting News is behind us:

Huge thanks to our good friend Sean Gentille at sportingnewstoday.com.

A very small percentage of those fine folks can actually cash in on curly fries if one of their beloved goes hatty. But each and every one of them wants the Detroit contingent to be able to cash in, because they know that’s what’s right.

Our campaign manager, CaptNorris at The Winged Wheel, has been doing an excellent job keeping track of which states are trending Curlies, and which are still under the veil of evil and darkness (and Nascar).

As you can see, the three of us that make up The Production Line won’t let our states falter. None of us call Michigan home anymore, though I’ll be spending Christmas with my folks. But that hasn’t deterred us from beginning this campaign. We knew which way the wind was blowing on this Curly Fries issue… and we took action. Because that’s what Red Wings fans do for each other. We bail each other out when we’re arrested for tossing Octopi, we wear orange hats to tribute a long-time fan, we scream Don’t Stop Believing so loudly that fans in every one of those countries listed above can hear it and know we’re singing for them, too.

We vote Curly Fries. Because that’s Red Wings fans want. You know who wants Junior Roast Beef?

Thanks to @sigsegfalt

After a tumultuous first 48 hours that saw our lead fluctuate from 97% to the fifties, Curly Fries are holding steady at 66%. This weekend saw the numbers begin to stabilize, moving only a few points – but staying between 65 and 70%. That doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels. You need to continue voting. You should be voting right now, because you don’t know that Beefians aren’t hiding in the bushes.

Go ahead and click that link… we’ll still be here when you get back. And we’ll be here for a long time after that. Rest assured, Wings Nation, we won’t sleep until you get your Curly Fries back.

Thanks to @lolabythebay for the Twitpic

Go get your fries, Hockeytown

Photo courtesy of our good friend @sigsegfalt

Congratulations, Red Wings fans.

Arby’s, in all of their awesomeness, has heard your calls for justice — and they’re ready to return your curly fries IF they turn out to be preferred, after all. Thanks to Fox Sports Detroit (with this article from Dana Wakiji), Hunter Public Relations, and Arby’s Restaurant Group — there’s a VOTING PAGE up, that will live on Fox Sports. Go vote now. Go back and vote later. Vote several times.

The curly fries are within reach, Hockeytown. You can all smell them. Now go get them.

The winner will be announced live during The Big Chill outdoor game between Michigan and Michigan State.

We may have started the march, but each and every one of you that used the hashtag on Twitter — or commented on the Facebook page or TPL — or shared the link among friends — or sent us photos of Sports Illustrated — or represented with the shirt — or made their presence known on Operation: Curly Fries’ cavalry — made this happen. We’re just three random dudes with a phone number without your support, and we’re extremely proud to have had you behind this idea, and we’re thrilled to be the mouthpiece on such an important issue.

Yes, fans of other teams may mock us, or talk about “how rough things must be in Detroit.” But it wasn’t about that, and we all know it. It was about bandying together and getting back something that we’ve grown to love, as a community — and as hockey fans. Arby’s Curly Fries and Red Wings success go hand-in-hand. We love them both. And they’re almost back together again… where they belong.

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Let’s take a walk down memory lane… a visual history of the glorious awesomesauceness that has been Operation: Curly Fries.

Immediately following our initial Operation: Curly Fries post, we were fortunate enough to get the attention of Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski. He was totally behind our fight, and asked if we had a few minutes to chat. The result was this magnificent piece at Yahoo!’s hockey haven:

The hashtag #operationcurlyfries hits the big time — we received over 500 mentions in the first 24 hours, and well into multiple thousands over ten days.

Soon after, our t-shirt partner, Underground Printing, alerts us that we’ve sold a ton of Curly Fries t-shirt, proving further that the world wanted this injustice righted, and quick. Our goal of filling the Joe with 19,000 people sporting Curly Fries shirts was well on its way (for the purposes of this update, “well” means “one for every few hundred”).

Within days, we received that beautiful comic you see below — from our new friend Travis Ma at HockeyComics.com, who chose Operation: Curly Fries as the story he wanted to feature that week. Isn’t our little animated Wings fan adorable? All she wants is some curly fries, Emo Arby’s Guy. Don’t be a punk.

We got some traction AT the games, courtesy of our good friend @thetinnishflash:

We were lucky enough to get some recognition from Sports Illustrated, in a non-swimsuit issue (FOR NOW). Featured in the The Strike Zone, part of the Scorecard section, of the December 6th issue of SI. You can see the OCF mention in this Twitpic from Friend of TPL @Scott_Sabo:

We have ended up having a pretty solid relationship with Arby’s. We sent all of these photos and benchmarks to Arby’s as they came in. They thought they were all fantastic — and loved how emotional Red Wings fans had gotten over their delicious potato snacks. If it was just a silly endeavor, we would have gotten nowhere fast. But it wasn’t. It was something bigger. It was a beautiful, entertaining, community-building exercise that had the outcome we all hoped for and deserved.

Go get your curly fries, Wings Nation. You’ve just about earned them.

Filppula, Expectations and the Legend of Vyacheslav Kozlov

Somewhere in California, Valtteri Filppula is waking up right now. He’s well-rested. He’s refreshed. His team is playing well and he is feeling good. Yes, life can’t get much better right now for the 26 year-old from Vantaa, Finland.

Yet somewhere, right now, some writer is putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to challenge Flip. It’s been the same story over the past three years when it comes to Filppula. “On the cusp.” “Ready to break through.” “One big game away.” Everyone from the local beat writers to Uncle Mike himself has said that they expect Filppula to take the next step, yet a quarter of the way through Flip’s fifth professional season, we find ourselves sitting at the intersection of “expectations” and “execution” with no sign of the number 51 car in sight.

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In the third round of the 1990 entry draft, the Detroit Red Wings selected an 18 year old Russian forward with the 45th overall draft pick. A young player with plenty of potential upside, Vyacheslav Kozlov would take only two years to crack the Red Wings roster, eventually becoming one of the prime contributors on one of the most fearsome lines ever to take to an NHL ice surface. For Kozlov, though, the game was one that never saw him steal the spotlight. No, that was left to the Fedorov’s and the Konstantinov’s of the “Russian Five.” For the young man from Voskresensk, it was all about being reliable at both ends of the ice: a tribute not only to his own style of play, but to that of the coach who would lead him to a pair of Stanley Cups.

Sure, Kozlov had his moments in the sun. A pair of 73 point seasons in the mid-90’s is nothing to sneeze at, but each of those campaigns saw Kozlov fall short of bringing home a championship and only served to raise the bar of expectations even higher for a guy who was more at home with a solid two-way game and preferred to stay out of the spotlight and away from the media and the cameras. Fittingly, one of Kozlov’s best years was the 1997 Stanley Cup winning season, which saw him score 45 points in the regular season and then another 13 in the playoffs, helping bring home a trophy to a city that so desperately craved it. 8 of those 13 points in the playoffs were pucks off his stick blade that found the back of the net, yet if you asked Kozlov today, he’d probably tell you he was more proud of his two-way game and his team trophy than he was with those goals he potted. That is, if he would even talk to you.

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Perhaps it’s his blond hair and good looks that draws the eye to Valtteri Filppula. Young, handsome and talented, it’s no secret that every time he takes the ice, eyes find Flip and expect great things. It’s too bad, really, when you sit back and think about this young man’s career up to this point. While Flip is quietly putting together a career based on the same solid two-way play that a previous Red Wings #13 prided himself on, so many of the fans and media can do nothing more than sit and wonder “Where’s the beef?” Not enough scoring. Not enough “shoot.” Not enough blonde. 13 points in 21 games? That’s great and all, but not enough flare and not enough panache to make you even think twice, really.

Despite all of those expectations and despite all of the prophecies laid down about his potential, Valtteri Filppula continues to contribute as best he can. He’s putting up the points and he’s defensively responsible, fulfilling the very same ideals that Kozlov held not so many years ago when he wore the Winged Wheel. Yet for some reason, the scrutiny that Filppula’s game faces on a daily basis has far surpassed the level that Kozlov saw years ago in the Joe. Two players formed out of the same mold, yet one was quietly brilliant while the other is brilliantly “quiet.”

Maybe it’s everything to do with the looks and nothing to do with the way the game is actually played. Filppula is a rock star in many ways when it comes to this Red Wings team, albeit with his looks and style rather than his goal-scoring prowess, I suppose. Perhaps, then, Filppula brings all of the expectations upon himself. In an organization where it always seems like there’s a young guy ready to explode onto the scene, Filppula has basically quietly entered the room and gone about his business, making sure nothing is out of place and everything is put away properly and kept in order. Yet it’s not enough to see a guy like Flip quietly do his thing and prop up his teammates along the way. It’s not like he’s playing with some schlubs out there. Danny Cleary is the leading goal scorer on the team right now and Todd Bertuzzi is playing some of the best hockey he’s played in the last few seasons. Same for Johan Franzen. Yet the fact that Filppula is out there making the simple and effective pass to facilitate those goals for his teammates is something that is overlooked so often that many folks don’t even realize what he’s doing or where he is. Perhaps that’s the point though. Perhaps that’s the best compliment we can give Valtteri Filppula.

Maybe that’s why the expectations bother me so much then. When it comes to getting something done in my own life, I’m the type to put my head down and just go for it, quietly completing a task in a world where so many believe the loudest and most flamboyant are the ones who are doing it correctly. Is there anything wrong with putting on a show and having some fun along the way? Absolutely not. For some, though, satisfaction lies in a job well done and then picking up the lunch pail on the way out the door with nothing more than a word and a smile.

For Filppula and Kozlov, that is the modus operandi. Hard work. Job well done. On to the next one. Yet for a pair of players who share such similarities in their game, it doesn’t make sense that one is expected to blow the doors off the joint while the other was never more than a three word quote on a three point night. Yes, the game and the atmosphere around it has completely changed, now favoring a circus where the superstar is God and everything else usually rings hollow. That’s the nature of the beast and nobody can stop it, try as they might. But in a city where an honest day’s work is regularly touted and celebrated, perhaps it’s time we took a closer look at what #51 is currently doing while also putting away the lofty expectations that this young man may never reach. Otherwise, one day Filppula may leave town as a guy who “failed to meet expectations” instead of the guy who left town and quietly went about his business in the next town he was designated to.

Love Kozlov or hate him, there’s no denying that he was a man who did the things he was tasked to do and then went about his business. It’s time to expect the same from Filppula. Rather than having him “fall short” of expectations on a regular basis, maybe it’s time to be pleasantly surprised when he scores another timely goal or buries yet another game winner for the good guys (which he is currently 2nd in the NHL in doing.) If Filppula is meant to become a great scorer, then his work ethic and skills will take him there, but will do so in due time. It’s time to do away with the incessant timetables that we set up for his success, as they do nothing but derail the true excellence in his game. If we don’t stop now, it may be too late before we realize what a great thing we truly have, only making sense after it’s long gone from both the arena and our memories.

Just like that other #13.

Picture courtesy of The Hockey News

Bingo, Curly Fries!

By now, you’ve heard the horrible news. The Detroit Red Wings’ fast food partner, Arby’s, has changed their special giveaway if a Red Wing nets a hat trick. Deviating from their classic and awesome Curly Fries, they’ve begun offering something called a Small Roast Beef Sandwich should a Winged Wheeler put their third puck in the back of the net.

Friends, this cannot stand.

Make no mistake — I’ve got no beef with the beef. In fact, those sandwiches are delicious. But there is a series of good reasons why we should band together and demand that the deal revert to its natural state: one in which Red Wings fans all over the nation get their delicious, deep-fried curlies the morning after an emotional offensive display. This campaign has absolutely nothing to do with The Production Line Store’s Curly Fries t-shirt, because it’s a well-known fact that each and every one of you have at least t-shirt in your wardrobe that’s deemed “vintage” or “classic” and — therefore — much cooler than the rest of your outfit-completing crew necks.

No. It goes deeper much than that.

First, Exhibit A. Take the following video as an example (hat tip to @bradonweb for passing along the video when we needed it most).

Hearing Mickey say “He’s thinking Small Roast Beef Sandwich” doesn’t have the same ring to it as “He’s thinking Curly Fries!” Likewise, “BINGO! SMALL ROAST BEEF SANDWICH” is very much the antithesis of the excitement every last one of us felt when we heard “BINGO! CURLY FRIES!”

Coupled with the fact that “Curly Fries” have become synonymous among Red Wings fans with dynamic scoring displays, and you’ve got a hell of an argument to keep Fries the Fast Food Face of the Franchise.

Exhibit B has more to do with frequency than urgency. In the past three seasons, there have only been THREE Red Wing hat tricks: the pictured Zetteronslaught of the Ducks last November, a three goal effort from Z in Game 2 of the Phoenix series last season, and a four-goal jailsexing of the Sharks at the hands of Johan Franzen this past May.

I’m sure Arby’s has a good reason to have changed their Hat Trick giveaway. And I’m sure it has something to do with money. Perhaps it’s cheaper to give away a Small Roast Beef Sandwich than it is to give away Curly Fries. Perhaps they’re hoping people will try a Sandwich and make Arby’s their meal of choice when they’ve only got a few minutes. My question to them is this: is it worth the extra few cents when it’s only been utilized three times — and your target audience is a little bit annoyed that they can’t get curly fries? I’m willing to bet a Curly Fries shirt that they simply don’t know people have noticed things have changed…

Exhibit C is courtesy of my wife, a noted vegetarian and the designer of more than one of the TPL Store’s trademark shirts — including Curly Fries. She caught wind of the changing Arby’s landscape during the last telecast and offered this: “I’m pissed. As a vegetarian, I’d much rather get my hands on some curly fries than dead animal flesh.”

I looked up from my juicy t-bone steak, which was topped with chicken wings and bacon, and realized that she had a point. Vegetarians and vegans may not make up a large percentage of Wings fans, but they’re there nonetheless, and they’re not rooting any less hard than the rest of us (though their lack of protein may prevent them from rooting AS LONG). They deserve to be rewarded by the Henrik Zetterbergs, Johan Franzens, and Pavel Datsyuks of the world just as the rest of us do.

So join us. Join us in the comments. Join us on “The Twitter” (using the hashtag #OperationCurlyFries). Join us on Facebook. Join us in spirit. Join us in legion. If we get 100 comments, we WILL bring this to Arby’s attention and be the mouthpiece for Red Wings Nation, fighting to get your Curly Fries back. Let us know how you feel and if it’s worth the effort.

Why now? Because we’re getting close… the Wings have had a few two-goal efforts lately, and we can all smell it. And, if I’m not mistaken, 100% of us are smelling curly fries.

Operation: Curly Fries.

***UPDATE***

From our good friend @lolabythebay, comes this wonderful photographic proof that we, as Red Wings, do in fact ADORE our curly fries following a hat trick. In this case, Franzen’s four goal playoff performance:

TPL Store: No Longer a Dream

That’s right gang, not only can you read TPL everyday, you can now rock out in official TPL-sanctioned apparel. Get your credit cards ready.

This has been something we have been working on for awhile now, and we wanted to make sure that we got it right. Not only did we want to provide all of you with entertaining t-shirts, we also wanted to make sure you were getting high-quality gear that won’t fall apart after five washes. In addition, we wanted to ensure that the buying process was easy and secure, and that if you needed to return or exchange something, it wouldn’t be a major hassle. Yes, we are THAT committed to you guys.

So with that in mind, we knew there was only one place to go: Underground Printing. Not only did they offer everything we were looking for, they are also a local business with tons of ties to the region and have plenty of experience working with blogs and bloggers. A few discussions later, and The Production Line Store was born. Not only will you get high quality apparel from the store, you’ll also be working with a great group of individuals who will make sure you get exactly what you ordered in a timely fashion. It’s a win-win for everyone.

I know, enough with the chatter. You want to hear about the shirts…

Jimmah: Celebrating the greatness that is Jimmah Tiberius Howard. Enough said.

The Dickster: One of the most popular characters to continually come up on TP:60, Hat Trick Dick’s whereabouts are now proudly displayed on a shirt for all to see.

Helmanity: It wasn’t so long ago that Darren Helm was breaking hearts all over Chicago. Celebrate all of Darren’s ridiculous plays and achievements in a shirt that pays homage to a legendary image that gave us a reinterpreted catch phrase.

Curly Fries: If there’s one thing Wings fans love almost as much as winning, it’s a free order of curly fries after a hat trick. Make a statement to your favorite Wings player during your next trip to the Joe, and maybe he’ll do us ALL a favor. It’s easy as 1,2,3…

And, of course…

Shirtuzzi: No explanation needed. It’s the signature shirt of TPL. Wear it proudly (in either red or white!)

So there you go folks. The TPL Collection. Have an idea for another shirt? Send it to us at contact@theproductionline.us. We are always looking for new ideas, so don’t be shy. In the meantime, why don’t you head on over and pick up a few Shirtuzzis? Remember, Todd is watching YOU.