Dallas Stars' Ales Hemsky (83) of Czech Republic, Jason Spezza (90) and Jamie Benn (14) congratulate Tyler Seguin (91) on his goal in the third period of a preseason NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers, Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, in Dallas. Seguin scored three goals and the Stars rallied to beat the Panthers 5-4. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) 10022014xSPORTS

Why the Dallas Stars Mean Business

It wasn’t but a few years ago, on July 4th, 2013, that recently acquired General Manager for the Dallas Stars Jim Nill made exceptional changes that would alter the caliber of his team.  Nill sent 2011 NHL All-Star Loui Eriksson along with prospects to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverly, and Ryan Button.  It was this transaction that propelled a decent Stars team into a good Stars team.

However, what then turned this Stars team from good to very good – now on the verge of great – was the acquisition of veteran forward and two time All-Star, Jason Spezza and the other assets who were gained soon after.  Spezza signed a four-year, $30 million extension with the team in 2014.

From then on, Nill proceeded to add the pieces of this very good team to make them a contender for the Stanley Cup.  After acquiring Spezza they also added Ales Hemsky as a free agent. He also managed to obtain longtime Buffalo Sabres coach and Jack Adams winner Lindy Ruff in the summer of 2013 to make matters even better.

This past summer was also a busy one for Nill as he acquired three-time and two-time Stanley Cup Champions with the Chicago Blackhawks, Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya and added goaltender Antti Niemi to add depth in the crease who won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks.

Missing the playoffs in 2014-2015 gave additional motivation going into the summer finishing only two spots out of a Wild Card spot.  Now with the key supplements and veteran leadership-especially several players who know what it takes to win a Cup- to mesh with the young talent, this team should have no problem securing a playoff spot.

The only factor that could weigh this team down is the fact they have no distinct number 1 defenseman and their goals against last season, despite their offensive numbers, is what kept them out of a playoff spot. Continue reading

CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 5:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers goes up for a dunk against the Los Angeles Clippers on February 5, 2015 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NBAE via Getty Images)

Steph Curry with the Shot, LeBron with the Team on His Back

He drives through the lane with explosive force like a running back.  Initiating contact, as the ball careens off the backboard and into the net, LeBron James heads to the free-throw line.

With his hairline receding, he no longer pays attention as the headband has been removed from his cranium.

Effortlessly, James sinks the free throw to convert the And-1 opportunity.  That was game one of the series against the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals.  Four games later, only converting one of four free throws, James and the Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2006-2007.

In 2010, after losing to the Boston Celtics in the second round and pending free agency, James made his decision to take his “talents to South Beach” as the saying goes.  Five seasons later, LeBron finds himself in a situation like the one he and the Cavaliers were in during the 2007 playoffs.  Only this time,however, the team LeBron and the Cavs face in the Finals look to be a well-rounded team with a pair of three-point specialists — the Golden State Warriors.

What LeBron did wasn’t a betrayal to the city of Cleveland, but a terminator “I’ll be back statement.” And not just “I’ll be back,” but an “I’ll be back and we’ll win the whole damn thing this time.”

He took off to get better, mentally and physically.  James found a winning atmosphere in his time in Miami and found a way to take what he learned back to Cleveland, which could ultimately be what gives the Cavs the edge over the Warriors.

James is on the cusp of proving why he deserves to be the greatest player of this generation. Continue reading

hockey brooms

Playoff Hockey: Sweeps

The NHL Playoffs are a time of year where results are often unpredictable and games can seem endless. During the regular season, several blowouts occur from teams needing some form of life. But the first couple of months are pretty indicative of which teams will be fighting for glory.  In fact, 13 of the 16 teams who made it to the post season were in the top eight of their conference at the end of November.

There’s something in playoff hockey – though we’re well aware of it’s possibility – that strikes us either out of frustration or sudden disbelief.  A sweep.

As a true hockey fan, and after many years of watching playoff hockey, you simply never want the games to end.  The hope for an eternity of overtimes never depreciates.  Maybe what’s most striking is that after an entire season of 40-plus victories, teams can’t manage to win just one of in a series of seven.

Some teams have no purpose being in the playoffs, squeaking in by only an inch. But sometimes those teams make for the most compelling story.  Playoffs bring out the best in players as they are in high concentration mode with their intensity dial turned up to 12.  It’s hard comprehend a matchup not being as evenly matched as we envisioned.

Two unpredicted sweeps transpired so far.  Maybe if it weren’t for the fact it was the most difficult post season to forecast in recent years, the sweeps wouldn’t have been such a surprise.  But hey, it’s the playoffs and anything can and will happen. Continue reading


Raleigh Hip-Hop Producer Emerges in Music Industry

On the edge of Downtown Raleigh, just off of Peace Street, sits an old white building with a grayish blue door and window frame that has been faded by the sun over time. Inside, sitting on a computer chair facing two monitors and an audio mixer soundboard, is 20-year-old producer and engineer, Travis Ross.

Ross began his music career in 2005 to compete with his sister who had recently signed to a label. At 10 years of age, Ross began rapping in pursuit of a sibling rivalry. But his true calling was behind the computer screen, mixing and mastering.

“The whole music thing started because I was jealous of my sister,” Ross said. “She had just signed to this “label”, so I wanted to one-up her.”

Not only did the passion for music come at an early age, but the fact he never viewed music from a fan perspective was a dynamic as well. “I was always trying to make music,” he said. “So the people I was looking up to were people who I saw working like 9th Wonder, a producer who’s from Raleigh.”

In 2010, Ross made his way to the Los Angeles for his first Grammy Camp at age 15. “The person you’re looking at now is a product of Grammy Camp 2010.” Grammy Camp gives opportunities to high school students looking to pursue a career in the music industry with guidance from experienced teachers and counselors. Ross was part of the first camp that included hip-hop in the showcase while receiving a full scholarship from the Hot Topic Foundation.

“I was really in a shell before that experience and it really changed my life,” he said. “It was a, ‘Yo, this is really possible because I was selected out of all these people to go here’.”

While at Grammy Camp, Ross and his production team had the privilege of traveling to Santa Monica to visit Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ Flyte Time West recording studio. Jam and Lewis are well known for their R&B production while working with names like Prince, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, and Usher. Continue reading

J. Cole's Home in Fayetteville, North Carolina

A Venture to J. Cole’s Childhood Home

I vividly remember getting an e-mail in my inbox with the opportunity to win a chance to be one of the firsts to listen to J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive album.  The dates happened to be on November 29th and November 30th, the former being my 20th birthday.  I submitted my information twice for the contest drawing thinking the possibility of venturing to the North Carolina rapper’s childhood home was near impossible.

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It was the Monday before my birthday, the 24th to be exact.  I took a seat in my last class of the day and –as usual– checked texts, social media, and e-mail prior.  The moment I opened my e-mail, I was ecstatic.  Why? My inbox contained an invitation to listen to Cole’s new album at his house that has yet to be released. Did I mention it’s on my birthday? Continue reading


Servers’ Tips and the Restaurant Industry

This was originally my research paper for my English 112 two semesters ago.  I’m proud of the grade and the paper itself as I also believe this would be an interesting read for some.  The paper was due on March 14, 2014.

The restaurant industry can be awfully cruel at times, but can be rewarding as well. A typical restaurant in the latter 30 states pays their servers a base wage of $2.13 an hour (Even 633). While most of that wage goes to pay taxes, a server will only take home what they make in tips during their shift. Many guests who have only seen the restaurant industry from outside the kitchen may not understand how critical leaving a tip is. As everyone does not know that the majority of people who work in the service industry use tips as their income leads to the reason why people need to tip, that tip amount should be determined on how well the service is, and wages for servers need to be higher.

On a regular occasion, a waiter or waitress’ tip is not properly calculated. The poor tipping could be a result of the guest not knowing how to calculate a tip percentage or they do not properly analyze their service. Brad Tuttle of Time.com reported a possible reason as a waitress was left a poor tip due to her table not agreeing with her “lifestyle”. Dayna Morales, the waitress, is a 22-year-old Marine veteran described by having short black hair and tattoos on her fingers (Tuttle). A table of four observed her outward appearance and immediately made up their minds about what kind of person Morales is. After the table finished their meal, their check came out to be $93.55 before the tip. Instead of leaving any tip at all, the family left this “cowardly” message on her receipt, “I’m sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle and how you live your life” (Tuttle). Morales was outraged after she wasn’t fairly evaluated and was left no tip. It may not ever be the right thing to write a crude, or any comment on the receipt, but a critique of the service might bode a little better. The argument here is that a server should be properly evaluated depending how well the service is, not by their exterior. Does the server refill the drinks on a constant basis? Are they nice and sincere? Do they appear to know what they’re talking about? If the food isn’t cooked right, that doesn’t always mean it was their fault. Sure, if the criteria mentioned isn’t met then maybe they shouldn’t get the greatest tip, but is not leaving a tip because they have tattoos and served in the military a valid reason not to leave a tip? Servers only receive the portion that they are tipped by their table and sometimes even less than that. Continue reading

eric staal

Eric Staal to Stay

Several days ago, goaltender Cam Ward was at the forefront of trade talk among the Carolina Hurricanes. It appears captain Eric Staal wants no part of that as Elliott Friedman reported that the 30-year-old doesn’t have any plan to waive his no-trade clause.

Staal, now playing alongside his brother Jordan, appears to be at the peak of his game, something we haven’t seen in a while. Although he only sits with 13 goals and 13 assists for 26 points, his performance as a whole stands out. He is currently riding a three game point streak with four goals and a lone assist.

It’s obvious in his stride that he’s fully healthy again, which plays part in his confidence returning as well. Prior to his brothers’ return, his positioning and leadership on the ice made a significant appearance. With the reports that Staal will not waive his no-trade clause expresses his leadership, dedication, and commitment to the club. His 300 goals and 800 games have all come with the franchise, why would he leave?

Even if the Hurricanes can’t make it to the playoffs this year they’re getting better game-by-game. They also play better when Eric plays better.

Ward and Staal are the only two players who remain on the team with a 2006 Stanley Cup ring. Both were drafted and have spent their career in Raleigh. It’d be hard to envision the franchise without the two.