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Monday, February 21, 2011

Ottawa 2012 - All Stars for Different Reasons

This post may seem a little out of season (since I started writing it a while ago), but nevertheless it remains an important league issue that needs to be addressed quickly. With the success of the Winter and Heritage Classic and the fantasy-themed All Star Game, the NHL is hard-pressed to keep its publicity stunts current and fresh. The future of the almost always lame All Star Game remains of particular interest to both the hockey media and the general fan base.

This year the league lathered on a little gimmick sauce to help the festivities all go down smoother. Don’t get me wrong, I’m appreciative, but in the end the theme registers only a 3 out of 10 on the “Gets My Blood Going Faster than Michael Grabner O’Meter”. Essentially, this little fantasy roster scheme gave two professional athletes the opportunity to do something they’ve worked their entire lives to avoid – play fantasy hockey.

This first run of a much needed revision did get me thinking of new ideas, however. There’s a lot the league can do to make this annual event (except for the Olympic years, God bless them) more of a novelty. My first idea – All Stars for Different Reasons. Give the Crosbys of the world a rest; let’s see some players who are the best the league has to offer at something other than hockey. Hey Brendan Shanahan, check out my proposed starting roster for next year’s game in Ottawa.

Eastern Conference

Goalie – Dan Ellis.
How predictable… Over the past couple years, Dan has shown hockey fans that he is a top of the table twitter tweeter, despite being a mediocre goalie on his best day. He’s also the only NHL player that Reggie Bush can identify by name, which is bound to be the high point of Mr. Ellis’ life and career.
*Note: Fans will most certainly cry “snub” at the fact that the most efficient fighter in league history, Penguins back up Brent Johnson, didn’t make the roster.

Left Defense - Sergei Gonchar.
Only a couple seasons ago, Gonchar was an injured-but-playing, cup-winning bad-ass who helped bring the hated Penguins their 3rd Stanley Cup. Now, Sergei is Ottawa’s richest and least productive citizen. In a town full of politicians, that is truly an accomplishment.

Right Defense – Michael Sauer.

The +10, rock solid, rookie defensive defenseman has done an impeccable job avoiding praise, recognition and attention from the every member of the hockey media. Does Taylor Hall have the Stanley Cup tattooed on his ass or something? It seems like everyone with a microphone is hell bent on kissing it.

Left Wing – Matt Moulson.
When he recently signed a three year contract extension with the New York Islanders, Matt Moulson revealed himself to be the league’s most deranged and delusional player. “I won’t be satisfied until we bring home the Stanley Cup championship”. And you think this dinky three year contract is going make it happen? Sorry Matt, but the NHL doesn’t let you sign 20 year contracts, just ask Ilya Kovalchuk.

Center – Jeff Skinner.
Nine out of ten times Jeff Skinner is mentioned during a TV broadcast, the discussion is accompanied by file footage of young Jeffery twirling around proficiently in a pair of white figure skates. My girlfriend asked if that particular skating skill would give you a better chance at making it into the NHL. I said, “It might. Most people wouldn’t even bother for fear of looking like this prepubescent twirly bird every time they were featured on air”.

Right Wing – Ryan Shannon.
Ryan gets into this game simply because he was born and raised in Darien, Connecticut (hometown shout out!). Another Darien native, maybe you’ve heard of him, MOBY? Yeah, he called Darien “The Most Racially Homogenous Place on the Planet”. Nice try Moby, but have you ever checked out the NHL? 20% of the league’s diversity (which is only 4 people) plays in Atlanta. That fact is either a product of fate or a very misguided marketing effort…

Western Conference

Goalie – Nikolai Khabibulin.
The Bulin Wall may be known in some parts of the world for his Stanley Cup ring and his Olympic medals, but the honorable police force of Scottsdale, Arizona know Nikolai best for his excessive speeding while under the influence of alcohol charges.

Left Defense – Ruslan Salei.

According to reliable sources, the veteran Belarusian defenseman is the league’s most feared and respected Call of Duty player. I guess to a guy that watched the Soviet Union collapse in their back yard while growing up, Nazi Zombies are a piece of cake.

Right Defense – Jack Johnson.
When you think about it, simultaneously selling 15 million albums worldwide and playing professional hockey for the Los Angeles Kings is a pretty impressive feat. I loved his work on the Curious George soundtrack too.

Left Wing – Drew Miller.

Out of all the NHL players with more successful siblings in the league, Drew Miller - winger for the Detroit Red Wings and younger brother of Sabres goalie Ryan - is the least well known. Despite being a professional hockey player himself, Drew’s best pick up line is still “My brother’s Ryan Miller”.
*Those who were looking for a Joel Lundqvist shoutout should know that Henrik’s less fortunate twin now plays back home in the Swedish Elite League.

Center – Alexander Steen.
The young St. Louis Blues forward was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba (his father Thomas actually played for the Jets), but decided to play for Sweden in international competitions. The decision to trade allegiances baffled the Canadian hockey community; they thought he must be the only player in the sport who doesn’t prefer to win gold over bronze.

Right Wing - Marian Hossa.

It takes a special breed of winner picker to shameless hop from contending team to contending team in the hopes of winning a Stanley Cup. Before being traded away from Atlanta to Pittsburgh in early ’08, he famously stated “Screw the specific city, Imma get mine!”

There you have it, league executives. Next year’s All Star Game format, all packaged up and ready to go. No need to thank me; a cushy job with a six figure income will do just fine.

Get ready for the playoff push Ranger fans. Judging by this past month’s play, we’ll be lucky to slip in at #8. All joking aside, if we lose out on the playoffs on the last day of the season I’m going to check myself into a mental hospital for the entire summer. To celebrate these moments where will still are mathematically capable of winning the Stanley Cup, I give you this haiku entitled “Scoring More Goals May Help Our Offense, Just Saying”.

If I liked watching
Teams that score one goal a game
I’d turn to soccer.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Worst Hockey Game I've Ever Been To

Greetings! Welcome to ’94 Parade. Glad you made your way over here, thanks for stopping in, would you mind removing your shoes please? I’m trying to keep the floors clean…

So last week I went to my second Rangers game of the year. I’m 0/2 so far. It’s frustrating. The first one I went to was against the Senators, a game I chose purely based on my understanding that the Senators are a shit team that the Rangers can beat easily. I even passed up tickets to the Capitals game they won 7-0 because I thought they had a better chance against Ottawa. Who knew Chris Kelly would put up a hat trick on Lundy? Who knew Chris Kelly was even a hockey player?!

So game number two was against our hated rival, the New Jersey Devils. Everyone knows how it went. Badly. 3 goals on 11 something shots, one in the first minute, the game felt over as soon as Kovy’s name was announced as the first goal scorer. Yet the Rangers felt the need to twist my heart and come back to within one. They thought it would be funny to hit a couple posts and leave me wallowing in a wasted $70. I walked away feeling frustrated and helpless.

But as bad as I felt last Thursday, I knew that times had been worse. My worst hockey experience ever came on a day when the Rangers played the Devils at the Prudential Center in February of ‘09. I was a senior in college, and my five friends and I got tickets to the game. Half Devils fans, half Ranger fans, we bantered back and forth until New Jersey took the lead. From then on out, we didn’t have a chance. The Rangers looked flat and completely incapable of getting a solid scoring chance, so there wasn’t much fun to be had by simply watching the game.

Nevertheless, there was some excitement only a few rows in front of us. A group of Ranger fans were annoying and taunting a large Devils fan sitting directly in front of them. The Devils fan was with his girlfriend or something, and you could tell that was pretty much all that was holding him back. He was freakin’ huge too, kept turning around and telling them to keep their mouths shut. The whole section kind of got into it, trying to push the two parties to their boiling points just to see the fireworks.

Well nothing happened, but the young group of Ranger fans continued to talk throughout the night, despite the fact that our team was soundly beaten. But when the game was over, the battle began! Here’s what happened…

-With thirty seconds left in the game, three of our friends (2 of the bigger ones and one Quat) leave to hit up the bathroom.

-The buzzer sounds and we decide to wait in our seats for the boys to come back.

-The young group of Ranger fans walk up the stairs to exit the section and begin to talk smack with my fat friend Gumdrop whose ratty Devils jersey can barely fit over his beer/everything else under the sun belly.

-My friend Rob joins in, both of my companions are wearing Devils jerseys. It’s also important to note that I am wearing nothing to signify my Ranger loyalty.

-The main agitator of the opposing group, a slim looking wiener who’s obviously had too much to drink and not enough love from his parents, slips his way into the row above us and keeps jabbering on about us being cats or kittens or something along those lines, I can’t remember exactly.

-He then pushes Gumdrop. Now the push was completely ineffective as the Gum is about 5’ 10” and weighs over 300 pounds with a center of gravity like a concrete block, but the tension was cut anyways.

-Rob and I both grab this kid on pure principal and drag him down to our row.

-As this happens, all 4 of his friends come running into the row behind us.

-I’m closest to the aisle, so two of them immediately grab me from behind and start punching me in the head. They’ve got the added advantage of higher ground and larger numbers, so I never even had a chance.

-Every time I looked up to make a move, a fist hit me right in the face. I took about six shots to the eye, never fell though cause I’m a total bad ass like that.

-After six straight shots though, I was fed up, so I made a bold move to jump over the row but that backfired and I wound up getting thrown 4 rows down the stands.

-As I got up, the young Ranger fans began to hurriedly leave. The 400 pound female security guards were watching us (not doing anything, mind you) and that seemed to indicate that the festivities were winding down.

-Clearly the worse for wear, we were escorted into the medical office of the Rock.

-My friend Rob was the only one who had seemingly won his fight. I had been double-teamed into a black eye and a concussion, and my Gummy friend was also banged up.

-We met back up with our 3 friends who were stunned to hear to what happened. Had they been there it would have been a completely different story, I assure you. Ironically enough, they had witnessed a fan fight in the bathroom as well.

So we left the Pru and headed back to the car. My eye was swelling up faster than a teenage penis after browsing W Magazine’s Kim Kardashian photo shoot. My five friends were chatting on and on about how cool it was and how it would have been so different if so and so had been there. And the worst news of all, the absolute cherry on the shit-sundae I was so gracefully served… I WAS SOBER! I was the freakin' designated driver. My luck could not have been worse. At least if I was drunk I wouldn’t have noticed the concussion slowly and painfully making its way through my cabesa.

The best hockey game I’ve ever been to was the NJ-NY game last year when the Rangers won 3-1 and Lundy put on a show like no other. I should have known going into Thursday that the experience couldn’t possibly top that night. At least I also knew that it couldn’t be worse than the aforementioned disaster.

Sorry for the lack of posts lately! I’ve been busy like you wouldn’t believe, and it’s a lot harder to be happily creative about the Rangers when their play on the ice resembles Islander-like awfulness. To make it up to you, please accept this haiku apology.

No apologies
Until the Rangers win a
Freaking game for once.