Saturday, December 29, 2007

Perhaps You Need a Reminder

I'm battling one of the nastiest colds that I've had in some time, so it has kind of forced me to hang around the house and entertain myself. Thanks to our financial disaster, I had to get rid of all of our movie and extemporaneous sports channels (of course I still have YES). Thus I often feel like the old Bruce Springsteen song - 57 channels and nothing's on.

Through the tossing and turning of last night, I watched a couple of blah college bowl games before giving up. At one point earlier today, I watched a little of the Pine Tar Game from 1983 between the Yankees and Royals, but I kind of know how that turned out, and I'm still scarred (Lee McPhail made one of the all-time pussy moves in reversing the decision - when does an officials decision ever get overturned after the game is over?).

So that led me to channel 215 on Direct TV. I've been noticing it for a few weeks now, and have liked what I have seen, but today it sucked me in.

It's called the NHL Channel. And it's a reminder of why hockey is so great, and why I would offer that the history of hockey pales only in comparison to baseball - and right on par with the NFL.

The channel is in its infancy. It's showing classic games, but not quite classic enough yet. I'm cool with games up to, say, 1994 (Rangers-Cancuks, naturally), but am not quite ready to consider things since then as classic. I'd love to see older stuff - like the Bobby Orr game from 1970. I shouldn't have to explain it, but since many of you don't know hockey that well, just know that at 40 seconds into overtime in the fourth game, number four scored the fourth goal - and arguably the most famous goal in NHL history - at least based on the iconic image. More about the picture (above) is here, including the play-by-play of the goal.

Anyway, today I've been sucked in by a show about the 1990 Stanley Cup Final between the Bruins and eventual champs Oilers (sorry, Harold - I wish it had ended differently). From there, it was a show on Mario Lemieux's greatest goals (what a play against the old Minnesota North Stars, and the '87 Canada Cup winner!). Yet what really sucked me in was the show about the greatest Canadian rivalries - the battles of the 80's and 90's between the Oilers and Flames (two words - Lanny McDonald ), or the Nordiques and the Candaiens (with a young Patrick Roy...pronounced WAH!). That, and a phone call from my hockey partner John Spang, got me all fired up for Greenwich and Westhill on WGCH this Thursday night.

Folks, I don't know how else to explain it to you, but hockey is amazing. It lost so much thanks to the work stoppage of a few years ago, and I'm still not sure the shootout thing is best for the sport, but give me Sidney Crosby moving in on Henrik Lundquist any day over what's going on in the NBA.

Regarding the shootout, the penalty shot is the most exciting play in hockey. The shootout has kind of made it lose its luster. I'm still of the school that you play the game until you collapse. That, my friend, is why there's nothing like playoff hockey. Again, back to the '90 Cup Final, when the Oilers won in TRIPLE OT (don't hate me, Harold. I'm not looking to bring back bad memories).

Oh but there's so much to love about hockey. The culture is wonderful. There are things that only hockey brings me. I would have never known what a Tim Horton's was without the NHL (it's a really good donut/sandwich shop that I ate at in Maine a few times). But there's more. Go ahead and "Google" these, if you need to:

Foster Hewitt
'72 Summit Series
The Great One
The Original Six (OK, I'll help here - Rangers, Bruins, Red Wings, Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Blackhawks)
Adams, Patrick, Norris, Smythe (those were the divisions)
Clarence Campbell and Prince of Wales (those were the conferences)
The Messiah (#11, my personal hockey God)
Jiggs MacDonald (Former Isles broadcaster, whose voice came to me on channel 9)
1980 Olympics (PLEASE don't tell me that I need to explain)
Raymond Borque and the Quest for the Cup
Hockey Night in Canada (I'd watch it just for Don Cherry, whom we need much more of)
Mike "Doc" Emrick (currently the best "voice" in hockey)

You get the idea. Maybe you need to see a game in person (we are NOT...repeating...NOT bringing back the glowing puck from FOX). Maybe you need to understand the sport better. Maybe you don't like Canada. Maybe it's the preponderance of European players with names that can't be pronounced. Whatever. Once you learn it, you will know that hockey is the sport with the most accessible players, and despite the fighting (what's not to love?) it is the most gentlemanly sport. It is the fastest sport - better than soccer in that there's so much back and forth play. Players will sacrifice everything for their teammates. They will grow playoff beards. They will do anything - ANYTHING - for the best trophy in sports.

The Stanley Cup.

Take some time to watch a game. Maybe start by watching the NHL Channel, if you get it. If not, then watch NBC on New Year's Day for the Winter Classic - the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres - live from Ralph Wilson Stadium just outside of Buffalo. That's right, they're going to play hockey, outside, in a football stadium. It will be so wicked cool.

Now that's where the old-timers will chafe. They want old-school. They (we) want the LA Kings pajama uniforms. They want the Octopus. They want to hate the Habs (right, Harold - wow - three references in one post!). They want "Brass Bonanza."

OK, maybe not.

Incidentally, Harold has informed his son that he can like any team...with the exception of the Canadiens. I understand completely (see "The Son" and "the Mets").

The old-timers don't want the glitz and the bright lights. Hell, they don't even want the helmets. They want the old hockey masks - not these high-tech pieces of art that they wear today. Yet they agree that, for the hopeful good of the game, time and technology marches on.

You should check it out, and see for yourself.

As noted hockey historian Sean Kilkelly would say, stay onsides!


Sean G. Kilkelly said...

Wow, did you use the p-word? You might soon be known as the new rated-r-superstar! Keep it in the Ring!

Rob Adams said...

Oh, come on! I do a hockey post and this is the best comment you can come up with??

Just kidding. Yes, I used the "p" word. That's how mad the Pine Tar Game can make me!

Harold said...

Just had to bring up the'90 Bs - Oilers series...Peter "f-ing" Klima. That stiff sat on the bench for 4 periods (I kid you not). Of course...he scores the game winner.

Some classics to consider:

* John Wensink challenging the entire Minnesota North Stars bench(pre-Dallas Stars) and no one answered the call.
* Mario Lemieux scoring goals - 5 different ways (even strength, power play, short-handed, penalty shot and empty net) in the same game against the NJ Devils in 1988 - New Year's eve.
* The Great Islander/Bruins and Islander/Rangers rivalries in the early 1980's.
* Stan Jonathan absolutely destroying Pierre Bouchard (Habs) in a scrap in during a playoff game in 1978.
* Ray Bourque skating with Normand Levielle (a truely sad story - google it) around the Boston Garden. Which also may be the last time I teared up during/over a sporting event.

Some other trips down memory lane:

* The Vancouver Canucks horrific V jerseys from the late 1970's
* The California Golden Seals (White Skates), Cleveland Barons, and Kansas City Scouts

Mick said...

Wow - did you use the word --- "PUSSY". I swear I saw it. Very nice...Ok back to Hockey.

I'll agree with you on Doc Emerick having the best voice in Hockey. And Yes, Jiggs (Ch.9 - WOR back then) got me hooked on the Islanders, hence why I am an Islander fan.

Love the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid - the only time I ever saw my father cry watching a sporting event.

Quick trivia question - who was the last Patrick Division Champion?

Playoff beards - got to love them.

Last but not least - did you see the Winter Classic today. What a game! Simply Awesome. Watching the players outdoors with the elements in their faces and the snow on the ice was a sight to see. Too bad Buffalo lost - they played a great game. Side note: FUCK YOU to NYC and the Yankees as this Winter Classic was suppose to be today at Yankee Stadium in a contest between the NYR and the NYI. Both of the above mentioned vetoed the game being played here. Shame on you!

Rob Adams said...

Yes, for the love of God, I said the "P" word.

I thought the last Patrick Division champion was the Rangers, but upon further review, discovered it was the Penguins.

Thanks for reminding me about playoff beards. Thanks to my cold, I had the goatee again (it's gone now) but I referred to it as my playoff beard.

Loved the Winter Classic. It was great, and the Yankees blew it by not allowing the Stadium to be used for either Rangers-Bruins (which I heard was the first choice) or Rangers-Islanders. Boo to the Bombers!

You guys were great with the hockey comments!