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Sunday, January 1, 2012
Alarming trend in NHL: Animals on ice

By Jerry Greene
Page 2

Happy New Year! The key to happiness is to learn from our mistakes and anticipate trends so we can be prepared. For instance, clearly the NHL has an alarming trend taking shape after someone threw an actual dead duck on the ice recently when the Anaheim Ducks were playing in San Jose.

Granted, this trend has had a couple of false starts. Seems like some guys have always thrown their hats on the ice to celebrate a hat trick. (Do they get their hats back? I worry about these things.) And Red Wings fans have thrown octopi because nobody worries about cruelty to octopi.

But this dead duck thing is bad. There's always retaliation and there's always copycats, so what may get thrown onto the ice in 2012? (Put down your Twitter account, PETA, we are not advocating anything here, just speculating.)

There's an entire zoo in the NHL. Should we fear the tossing of Panthers, Bruins or, yes, Sharks? Granted, sneaking them into the arena might be a challenge, but somebody had no trouble getting a dead duck past security. By the way, I do encourage throwing Penguins. They are nasty animals that are just the right size to peck you in just the wrong places. Trust me on this as I have been scarred by a penguin.

And once a trend begins, it just grows and grows. In other words, 2012 could be a dangerous year for Canadians, Rangers and Senators. (Election years are always deadly for Senators, so they've got two things to worry about.)

Our literary chefs have something special cooking for the New Year's Brunch, but while they are dotting the final I's and crossing the last T's, here are few more thoughts to chew upon:

Duck

Linesman Mark Wheler tosses a dead duck off the ice during the game between the Anaheim Ducks and the San Jose Sharks last week.

• According to MLB.com, "two 450-gallon fish tanks were installed inside the wall behind" home plate at the new Marlins stadium. Sure, what could go wrong with that?

• When Kurt Busch announced he signed with Phoenix Racing for the 2012 Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR fined him $50,000 and then rescinded the fine and apologized, explaining it was just a "knee-jerk reaction" at hearing his name.

• Is West Virginia going to be stuck in the Big East instead of the Big 12 in 2012? Maybe it can just sneak in the vans overnight and move. It worked for the Colts.

• Nets owner and possible Russian president Mikhail Prokhorov said: "If I become president, I won't be able to party anymore. If the country says it's necessary, I'll marry." -- OMG, does Kim Kardashian know about this?

• Brock Lesnar retired from martial arts after taking one kick in a first-round loss to somebody named Alistair Overeem in UFC 141. You want a 2012 prediction? Lesnar returns to the WWE, where they pull those kicks.

Ding ding. The first bell ringing of 2012 calls us to the table for our New Year's Brunch, provided by some of the best of the best. Let's dig in:

• The first Sunday of the year but also the last Sunday of the NFL regular season. Seems like the perfect time to check with Cleveland RB Peyton Hillis. Remember when he was placed on the Madden video game cover and laughed at the curse? He says he's still laughing -- but not about the curse. Jodie Valade of The Cleveland Plain Dealer asked the questions here.

• Not much to cheer about in Cleveland, but what about Green Bay or, for that matter, all of Wisconsin? Is there legitimate evidence that the success of the Packers is both good for the state's economy and its psychological profile? Are Wisconsin residents simply happier because of the Pack? Joe Taschler of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looks for the answers here.

• Just want to feel a little better on the first day of the year even if you're not in Wisconsin? Then check the story of Jacob Rainey, a promising young football player until an injury resulted in the partial loss of a leg. Devastated? Hardly. Inspirational? Definitely. Hank Kurz Jr. of The Associated Press has the story here.

• We promise not to talk about the Miami Heat every week, but they do look good, don't they? Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald investigates what's going on and discovers that it has absolutely nothing to do with redemption. In fact, it has nothing to do with last season at all. And that's scary for everyone else. Find it here.

That's it for 2011 and a fresh start for 2012. May it be a great year for all of you.

Jerry Greene is a regular contributor to ESPN.com and can be reached at osogreene@aol.com.

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