The NHL has been kind of floundering since the lockout. It has long been knocked from its perch as America's 4th biggest sport by MMA and NASCAR, and TV ratings have been in the toilet thanks to an ill-advised move from ESPN to Versus. While attendance is still solid, modern sports leagues cannot live by gate receipts alone.
However, this season's Stanley Cup playoffs have been spectacular. Lots of exciting hockey, big names versus big names... it's been incredible, and it culminated in an improbable comeback by my favorite hockey team, The Pittsburgh Penguins, versus the premier team in the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings. As we all know by now, the Pens fought back from the brink of elimination, forcing the series to a game seven, then winning it in dramatic fashion. I spent 15 minutes on Friday night screaming in celebration. What I didn't know is there were 8 million people watching with me.
While 8 million people doesn't seem like a lot, Friday's game seven was the most-watched NHL game in 36 years. Thirty-six years! As a hockey fan, I really hope some of these people stick around for the regular season, too. It seems like NBC is the perfect place for prime time hockey; I can only hope they broaden their slate a little bit and maybe launch some kind of Hockey Night in America.
To me, it seems like the perfect idea. Hockey has a pretty easily defined audience, and advertisers love that. Hockey fans are also loyal, so you know what kind of ratings you're going to get with hockey. It's also very cheap programming, and honestly, NBC's got nothing else going for it aside from The Office and the Tonight Show, so what do they have to lose? It beats the hell out of more I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.
Don't worry, that's not the real Canadian Hockey League trophy Bruton from the Spokane Chiefs dropped. The real trophy is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, while this was just a replica. Still, you'd think they'd make their replica trophy a little bit better so the cup part didn't disconnect from the base so easily and thus make this poor bum look like he broke the trophy. Then again, it's not like that trophy is as expensive as the NCAA's National Championship Football (made of Waterford crystal) broken by the Florida Gators.
Okay, so nobody's going around after the Zamboni, picking up the ice shavings and making a delicious Slushie, Slurpee, or Hawaiian Shaved Ice with the remainders (though maybe they could start selling 'Zamboni Shavings' at the concession stand?), but there's one thing even people who don't like hockey love. The Zamboni machine. There's just something about driving a lawnmower around on the ice that looks like a blast to everyone.
How a Zamboni works is... well, basically it's a floor buffer/scraper designed to smooth out the ice between periods of a hockey game. It sprays down a fresh layer of ice and squeegees it flat, while scraping out the roughness with a different blade. So really, with today's modern razors, there's not much difference what with the lubricating strip, the hair lifting, the multiple blades, and the quest for perfect smoothness. That's why these promotions are brilliant!
Really, I don't see why this isn't at every NHL game, because it's really that cool. It actually makes me want to seriously consider shaving more than once every two weeks when I get tired of looking like a homeless Grizzly Adams.
In one of the greatest hockey series that have been played in years, the Anaheim Ducks beat the Ottawa Senators tonight for the Stanley Cup. The only thing slightly disappointing with this win is that the series is over, because the quality of hockey between these two teams has been amazing. But I'm glad that if another team had to win the cup other than my Avalanche, who had a disappointing season, I'm glad it was the Ducks. And while the Ducks won the series 4-1, it was a lot closer than that near wipe-out makes it seem. It was a great final.
Congratulations to Scott Niedermayer who won the Conn Smythe Trophy and congratulations to the Ducks for their Stanley Cup Win in their 14th year as a team. And thanks for showing America what good Hockey is about. Let's home you earned the respect of some of the fans you lost in the lock-out.
And yes boys, this probably does mean that unless you actually play hockey, it's time to cut your hockey hair and shave those beards. Clean-up for the summer time of cleaner nicer sports.. like baseball, and golf. How dull.
There really is nothing quite as thrilling as thousands of Canadians singing "O Canada" before the puck drop of a Stanley Cup playoffs game in Canada. I mean, yes, I'm not Canadian, but our national anthem sucks and is kind of hard to sing even when you're sober. That's why we don't sing along to our national anthem, and the Canadians belt theirs out every chance they get. The closest we have is "God Bless America" at Yankees games, and that doesn't compare.
That's right, kids. It's playoff hockey time, which is pretty much the only time I find myself sitting down to watch a whole hockey game. Why is the playoff hockey so much more exciting than the regular season? Other than the fact that it's the playoffs and everyone looks like me after two days of not shaving?
Well, for one thing, the players care more. They know they have to win these games, or they have to go home. That's why in the playoffs, you'll have a game go 4 overtimes like last night's 5-4 Vancouver Canucks victory over the Dallas Stars. One game wasn't enough for Game One of this series, to they decided to play a second game with a 4-4 score. Then a third of a game.
Some of my best college memories revolve around playoff hockey, because the playoffs were always starting about the time our final exams were kicking into gear, and there was no better way to stay up and study for a test than by turning on the TV to ESPN and filling your eye-holes with cold, slippery puck action. In fact, that's the reason why I witnessed the longest playoff hockey game since 1936.
Where I went to school, to kick off finals week, we'd have this event called midnight breakfast. Basically, it was an acknowledgement that everyone was probably drunk and needed to sober up before 8 AM finals the next day. So they'd fix us breakfast at midnight. Pancakes, waffles, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit, bagels, oatmeal, juice... you know, the usual breakfast foods that I never saw while I was at college, because I always slept in.
Anyway, at midnight breakfast, there's hockey on the TV, and the game is already in overtime. So, since it's sudden death, everyone gathers around to watch it. And we keep watching it. And we keep watching it, even though they're trying to shoo us out of the cafeteria so they can close up and go to bed. After 92 grueling minutes, that bastard Keith Primeau scored to give the Philadelphia Flyers a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Last night, in what was probably a thrilling offensive showdown for all the hundreds of people who watched it*, the West beat the East in last nights NHL All-Star Game. 12-9.
While All-Star Game MVP Daniel Briere had 1 goal and 4 assists in a losing effort, the Western Conferences gritty elder statesman, Quebec Nordiques (and I guess Colorado Avalanche) star Joe Sakic did his best Steve Nash impersonation, passing out 4 assists and passing Mark Messier on the all-time All Star Game assists list. This multiple-point All-Star appearance was Sakics seventh total, which breaks the five-way tie between himself and Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier and Luc Robitaille.
In other words, Grandpa Joe Sakic is pretty damn good. I guess chasing kids off your lawn is a great way for our elderly to keep in shape. Unfortunately, no one cares because its hockey and its on Versus
*Disclaimer: Although I do receive the Versus channel, I did not watch the All-Star Game, because sleeping for 4 hours was more important than a fucking glorified preseason game.
If you missed the first 11 minutes of last nights Buffaslug/Washington Capitals game, then you missed basically the entire game. Thats because the Buffaslugs scored 6 goals in the first two thirds of the first period, then coasted to victory. Id imagine it was nice leaving in the first period, even if there is no traffic in Buffalo to try and beat.
In shocking news for many NHL fans, the New York Islanders announced today that Goalie Rick DiPetro has signed a fifteen year contract worth a reported 67.5 million dollars. That means DiPetro has agreed to keep playing hockey for the Islanders until he is nearly forty years old.
One thing is for sure, the five and ten year life plan goal questions certainly go to waste on Rick DiPetro. What do plan to be doing in ten years? Playing goalie for the Islanders!
This is the longest contract ever in the NHL and only second in the popular sports world to Magic Johnson's contract with the Lakers in 1981, a 25 year agreement. Now clearly, Magic didn't end up playing for 25 years with the Lakers. So, do you all think that DiPetro will still be on the ice fifteen years from now playing goalie? Do we want him to still be playing goalie fifteen years from now?
And just a reminder for everyone -- NHL season starts October 4th. And if you're interested in playing Fantasy Hockey against the sportsbastards.com team just comment with your email address and we'll consider inviting you to play with us. And no, we don't think you can beat us.