The more things change...
May 1, 2012 / 5:00 am
For the briefest of fleeting moments – read, before the playoffs started – pundits and hockey fans on both sides of the border were noticeably drooling over the possibility of Rangers/Devils, Bruins/Flyers or Penguins, Canucks/Blackhawks, Blues/Red Wings as potential 2nd Round match-ups. Then the second season began and the odd man advantages dried up, Euro-soccer diving ceased to be rewarded and the phrase “blood is much thicker than ice,” came out of hiding. You see, in the playoffs, parity is no longer a Collective Bargaining Agreement catchphrase thrown around between the NHLPA and General Managers not named Brian Burke… it not only exists but is a living, breathing entity with the express purpose of tormenting the network executives at CBC, TSN and most notably, NBC. While Canadian fans were already mourning Ottawa’s recurring inability to close out a 7-Game series and the Canuck faithful were inexplicably hanging the burden of failure on Vigneault’s door as opposed to Gillis’, the US Fan was mourning the almost total loss of the hockey marketplace through Round 1. Ratings, not seen in a decade and due in no small part to the goalie-free ice war that was Pittsburgh/Philadelphia, have been thrown to the wolves or Coyotes as the case may be, as those true-blue hockey fans without a tank left in the battle search to identify with a squad still seeking Stanley.
In the West, first year network interns are scrambling through endless search hours on Google Maps and Expedia for non-stop flights and arena directions for the faces of the broadcast who might shun the 3-day stay at the airport Red Roof Inn in such hockey hubs as Phoenix/Glendale and that Music City Miracle known as Nashville. Yes, this year, those who shun the studio role will have to trade in the preferred Chicago deep-dish and upscale sushi for the joys and wonders that can be found at Cracker Barrel as the weary media road warriors analyze how and why the Wild West will be won. Someone should mention to the Yotes that this winning thing is really not helping the cause for the move to Quebec City although the ageless wonder Ray Whitney may be in favour of staying - his retirement home is, after all, right next door to his family home. With a 2-0 lead over the Preds, the road to hockey’s Holy Grail may have to go through that hockey Mecca in Arizona… quick get me George Strait on the phone… there’s a song in this somewhere…
Speaking of ‘oceanfront property,’ the LA Kings are making a bid to move out of their role as the 5th most relevant team in Los Angeles behind the Dodgers, the Lakers, the Clippers and the NFL team that nobody wants, causing the Hollywood elite to pause for the scantest of moments and wonder if this is a photo-op that should not go a-begging. Listen, if Will Ferrell on the back-end of an already horrendous movie career is considered the best celebrity interview in the stands you can get, hockey isn’t back in the good graces just yet in the City of Angels. Unfortunately the joy of watching Jonathan Quick go to work has not replaced the YouTubeness of yet another Blake Griffin dunk…yawn…oh, sorry, this time it’s in the playoffs…yippee…yawn again. Somebody call me when Griffin makes a single shot from more than 4 inches from the cylinder and then we can have a reasonable discussion about comparative excitement levels between the NHL and the NBA!
Meanwhile, in the Eastern Time Zone, the Flyers and Devils are renewing hostilities from a time remembered by only Martin Brodeur and the parents of most of the other players. In a kind concession to the Devils and Brodeur’s future Hall of Fame status, NHL schedulers chose to emphasize the weekend day game in this series citing concerns about #30’s ability to meet curfew and bedtime requirements at the home. The Flyers for their part are a remarkable story and while they aim to bring a Cup to the City of Brotherly Hate for the first time since 1975, they are also attempting to be first team since the Penguins of 1991/92 to capture Lord Stanley without ever dressing a Goaltender. OK, all you Tom Barrasso and Ken Wregget Fan Club members can tuck away your moral indignation – I too can remember a save they each made if I think really, really long and hard…
Sadly, the Rangers/Capitals series discussion will have to take a back seat for now. While my disappointment at the Bruins defeat at the hands of the Capitals was tempered by last year’s triumph and a gracious hand-shake line between the 2 teams acknowledging a tough, hard fought series, I was deeply angered by the racist remarks directed at Joel Ward by the Boston Twitter faithful, following his OT goal. While, the faceless anonymity of social media enables the small-minded and ignorant to throw around demeaning N-Word slurs without fear of reprisal, it takes a man of strong moral character and backbone like Joel Ward to stand publicly in the line of fire and diffuse a volatile situation with a staunch refusal to engage. While, MLB parks everywhere, including Fenway were paying homage to Jackie Robinson and the #42, these remarks only served to illustrate that the hockey rink in particular, the sports arena in general and our planet as a whole are still populated by those who still believe the colour of one’s skin trumps the content of one’s character. Whilst we continue to stress the merits of our multi-cultural melting pot society to our children and grandchildren, frustration often leads one to paraphrase the immortal Bob Barker: “Please help to control the racist population – have them spayed and neutered.” Until next we chat Kelowna…
Read more A Sports Fan Speaks articles
- There comes a time... Mar 5
- The envelope please... Feb 26
- Bullet in the Chamber Feb 19
- A superb Super Bowl...honestly Feb 5
- Playoffs? Are you kidding me? Jan 29
- And we're back... Jan 22
- Looking ahead...and a bit behind Jan 15
- Collective disregard Jan 8
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