Sunday, June 3, 2012

Runnin' Up and Down The Hardwood

 Sure, your run of the mill gambler on the Las Vegas strip can walk into any casino, into any sports book, and place a bet on almost any mainstream franchise or athlete in the wide world of sports. However, one must wonder, does the home team bias play any role in the process? There aren't any professional sports franchises (Outside of the AAA level Las Vegas 51's) that call the Clark County city home, but there does happen to be one prominent division one college program in town.

The University of Las Vegas, Nevada has called the desert home since 1957. Sports weren't initially a priority for the school. None the less, it didn't take long for the administration to try their hand at being one of the many eye opening attractions in town. The schools basketball program, which will be the main focus of today's post, joined division one competition for the start of the 1970 academic season. Following 6 seasons of poor to mediocre play, the Runnin' Rebels found their stride in the 1977 season. That year, the club made it all the way to the Final Four. Time would tell that that certainly wouldn't be the last time America a go around with a grouping of twelve from the Sin City.

Since then, the Rebels have amassed 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, made 10 Sweet Sixteens, traveled to five Elite Eights, appeared in a total of 4 Final Fours, and even captured the National Title in 1990, defeating the Duke Blue Devils. Not too shabby for a D1 program that just short of its 45th birthday.

The Rebels play their home games at the Thomas & Mack Center, which they have called home since 1983. In addition to Rebels games, the 18,000-plus seat facility has hosted events such as the NBA All-Star Game in 2007, multiple guest speaking appearances, and a plethora of concerts. In it's time, the building has also seen plenty of stars pass through it's doors wearing the Scarlet and Gray.

Some of the more notable Rebels over the years that have had theirs jersey retired by the university are Larry Johnson, Reggie Theus, Greg Anthony, and Armen Gilliam. There are also multiple players who have played or currently play in the NBA, who have also run a fast break of two in the desert; some being: Joel Anthony, Louis Amundson, Marcus Banks, Shawn Marion, and even Isaiah "J.R." Rider.

The cap shown above was sent to me by a friend and avid reader of TFD, Angel Del Rosario, who you may remember from previous posts. Angel was recently featured by New Era in a Collectors feature video, which we shared a couple days ago on the blog. Angel was kind enough to pick this up from the UNLV bookstore, and send it my way a few months back. Props to him for that. It was much appreciated. The cap features a Scarlet and black crown, with a black brim. On the front, the UNLV Rebel caricature is centered in all his glory. On the reverse, the name "Rebels" is simply spelled out in Scarlet, over a black backdrop. Overall, an incredibly classic cap not to be overlooked.

Hope you all enjoy your Sunday, and distract yourself briefly from the unavoidable realization of yet another Monday being just around the corner.

Friday, June 1, 2012

To Hell and Back

Today, on TFD, we take a closer look at the New Jersey Devils. The Devils, as you may or may not know, are currently in the Stanley Cup Finals of the NHL, against the Los Angeles Kings. Game two of the 2012 Finals is tomorrow night at 8 P.M., when the Devils get their shot at redemption in this best of 7 series, following a game 1 overtime loss. The Devils, who are currently in their 30th season in the Garden State, are vying for their fourth Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history, let alone the past 17 seasons. 

In this years NHL post season, the Devils have outlasted the Florida Panthers in round one, blown past the Philadelphia Flyers in 5 games in the second round, and even defeated the cross-river rival New York Rangers in 6 games to reach the Finals. This is nothing short of remarkable after you reflect on the undeniable difficulties the Devils have faced: 

1.) Regardless of being perhaps the most successful and talented goalie in NHL history, Martin Brodeur turned 40 years old in the beginning of May. He is also in his 20th season on the ice, which undoubtedly has taken a toll on his mind and body. The teams success this season, and in seasons of past, is a true testament to his professionalism and personal preparation.  

2.) The Devils head coach this year, Peter DeBoer, is in his first season at the helm of the New Jersey franchise. Despite not having an abundance of familiarity with his roster, he managed to lead the team into the postseason with 41 regular season wins, and a 12 and 7 postseason record to this point. 

3.) Lastly, the fore mentioned three series victories in the playoffs so far. In the first round, the Devils were pushed to the brink of elimination by the Florida Panthers. The New Jersey club won back to back overtime thrillers in games 6 and 7 to advance. In the second round the Devils made quick work of the Flyers. After stumbling briefly in game 1, the Devils won 4 straight to close out the series. In the Eastern Conference Finals the Rangers pushed the Devils to the furthest extent of their talent. It took 6 games, but New Jersey was able to advance to the Stanley Cup, topping a 1 seed and perhaps the best team in the league. 

The Devils have certainly paid their dues this postseason, however they most certainly face a worth opponent in the Kings. The Kings have beaten a 1, 2, and 3 seed in succession to make it to the finals as an 8 seed. All we can do is wait to see if the Cinderella story will play its course, or if the glass slipper will remain off the West Coast franchises proverbial foot. 

The cap featured above is a throwback colorway for the New Jersey Devils, dating back to the period in the teams history from 1982-1992. Those were certainly the early foundation stages of a franchise that has risen to prominence through trial and tribulation. The cap features a Devil red brim, and a kelly green crown. Located symmetrically on the front is the Devils logo, which many feel is one of the best sports logos of all time. On the rear, is the NHL Shield shaded with the same kelly green. I found this cap at Cap City, located in West New York, New Jersey. The fitted is not available on the website currently, however that may change so check back regularly if interested. 

Have a great weekend, and GO DEVILS!!!